The following story is complete fiction. It didn't happen. If you don't like reading stories with gay sex in them or aren't allowed to for legal reasons, then don't. If you do and you can, then go for it! This story is copyrighted April, 2004 by the author. It may be posted to other FREE websites with the author's express, written permission, and as long as my name and e-mail address are included and no changes to the story are made. Thanks!
THE WISDOM OF THE AGES
BY ROBBY SR.
3000+ BC Somewhere In Egypt
The young man walked along the bank of the river, deep in thought. He'd passed through many villages: spent time in some, and the river had a different name in each. The people of the villages, he'd learned, were basically the same by his observation, but they saw themselves as different. They saw themselves as better than the people of the other villages. He shook his head at the thought of all the skirmishes that attitude caused. It seemed the people could make a weapon much better, faster, and easier than they could make a friend.
At a small bend of the river he heard the sound of splashing. He peered from among the bushes and saw standing in the water a young boy. It was obvious the boy was tending to some traps and was viewing his catch of the day. He was naked in the river, his skin deeply bronzed from the sun. His entire body was equally darkened showing that he spent most of his time naked. The man looked around for a hut but saw nothing. He wondered where the boy had come from. He thought it unusual that no one was with the boy; as it wasn't safe to wander too far from home alone lest he be set upon and robbed or killed.
Closer examination made him wonder just how young the boy actually was. His skin was unblemished, but he had a small tuft of hair in the middle of his chest and under his arms, with an almost indiscernible trail leading to a not so hairless crotch. Muscles fully developed and rippling as he worked. His movements in the water; the way he lifted the traps and handled the workings all spoke of the type of experience that comes with at least some age, yet he appeared as fresh as a flower.
The man made himself appear old enough to be the boy's father, and walked to the edge of the river. The boy turned and saw the man. Immediately a smile lit up his face and he bowed slightly to the man, showing his respect for the elder. The man pulled some dates and figs from his robe; the boy shared his fish, and they had a meal.
After the meal they both went naked into the river and the man helped the boy set his traps for the night. He leaned back against a rock and the boy slowly washed the man's body of the dust and grime of his travels.
Not far from the bank of the river, two small rocky hills converged under a large slab of rock. It wasn't an actual cave, but it was more than enough shelter and that's where the boy lived. He explained that men from another village came not too long ago and killed his father in a battle with his own village. Soon after the battle his mother died in childbirth and he was left alone. He chose against living in the village and stayed alone. Every couple of days or so he would take a portion of the day's catch of fish into the village and trade them for fruits and figs and dates, or some netting to repair his traps. As long as he showed up in the village now and then the villagers knew he was safe and left him alone.
When night fell the boy took the man into his shelter and built a small fire. They lay together and enjoyed each other's bodies and gave each other warmth. The man was surprised at the prowess of one so young. The boy told him of other men from his own and other villages who came and used his body for their pleasure. It was the reason he survived the onslaughts of soldiers from other villages. The boy got naked for the soldiers: who had him as they wished, and then allowed him to live.
In the morning the boy didn't notice he had a bruise on his neck, but the man noticed that the walls of the boy's shelter were covered in curious markings. The boy explained that he used a sharp rock and made the markings himself. The man asked why, and the boy said it helped him to remember. He pointed to a marking that looked like an arrowhead with a circle on the top of it. The boy said the arrowhead signified a mountain; the circle a rising sun to a new day. Next to that marking was another that the boy said signified a man. Markings over the man's head meant a crown, and the entire set meant that the village had crowned a new king. The boy pointed out other sets of markings that meant something only to him, but helped him to remember, and sitting and looking at them and making new ones was a pleasure for the boy. The man looked at the markings on the walls and smiled.
`At last!' the man thought to himself. `It begins.'
PRESENT DAY, AND THEN SOME - Egypt
Greg figured the real distance between St. Augustine and Egypt was about five thousand years or so. During the cab ride from the Cairo airport to the hotel, he saw something of ancient Egypt everywhere he looked. Restaurants built and decorated in the old style, authentic ruins here and there as though a giant hand tossed them around to scatter where they may. So many of them that the government bothered to keep only a few in any kind of repair to attract the tourists. Greg turned his head this way and that, marveling at the sights and the people. He was excited and amazed and anxious.
The Semiramis Intercontinental hotel in downtown Cairo right on the Nile was modern, but even the lobby had pieces in it that looked like they could have at one time graced a Pharaoh's palace. Greg grinned ear to ear while he checked in and looked around. He liked the dark green walls accented with gold, as he imagined the palaces of ancient Egypt could have been. He looked up and marveled at the huge crystal chandeliers. All the staff wore the traditional Egyptian Fez. He thought about the history of Egypt, and imagined he could see something of everybody in everybody else in the lobby. The man walking into the restaurant was going to a tryst with his mistress. The guy sitting in a chair reading a newspaper was an international spy waiting to give the code words to his contact, who could be the lady going through the brochures near the check-in counter. Clandestine this, secret that. Greg grinned at himself. Even the bellboy over there could be..........damn the bellboy was CUTE!!
Immediately Greg's mind flashed back to the airport in Rome. He was going on to Egypt, and Ely was flying up to England to visit some of his old haunts while Greg worked. Right before they kissed goodbye Ely had told Greg, "Now you study hard and work hard, but have some fun whenever you want."
"Yeah!" Greg laughed. "Like you won't!" Their `goodbye' wasn't a tearful one at all. Greg learned over the last several years that tearful goodbyes were reserved for people who were limited to only one lifetime. Greg was on his second. Ely stopped counting a couple centuries ago.
Before starting this trip, Ely had to once again take care of Greg when they had to change their appearance and attend Nathan's funeral. Nathan was the first of the boys that Greg and Ely brought into their home from the streets. He was 19 when he moved in with Greg and Ely, and died at 81. After the services Greg sat on their terrace staring off into space, and lamented to Ely that he had already said goodbye to Nathan and the other boys when he ended his own human life and completed the change, and now he'd said goodbye yet again.
Ely had explained to Greg that they must be very careful about establishing relationships with the humans for that very reason. "Saying goodbye is very difficult under any circumstance," Ely had told him. "That's why we impose on ourselves the limitation of avoiding any intimacy with humans; because saying goodbye would be something we would have to do far too often. It always hurts, so we try to see to it that we don't have to do it."
They had taken in many boys from the streets of Miami who'd had to leave home suddenly only because they were gay, and had given them a home, sent them to college, and saw to it that they were given a chance to have a good life. They sat on their terrace and held each other and agreed that while they would do it, they weren't looking forward to having to say goodbye yet again to all the rest of them eventually.
Now Greg was working on his PhD in archeology. It had been a little over 70 years since he had been in college, and he was having nothing but fun with it. He still lived at home with Ely, but managed to drag lots of cute college guys home for him and Ely to play with and feed off of. Among the gay community at the university, it was a running joke that any guy who came to school on Monday with a hickey on his neck had spent the weekend at Greg's house. No one knew that the real reason why was because both Greg and Ely needed the blood that oozed from those hickies to survive. No one even suspected what Greg and Ely really were since all the legends and myths about them were just that - legends and myths. Greg and Ely and all the others used those myths as a cloak of secrecy to hide what they really did and how they really lived.
Greg turned to the clerk at the reception counter. "Has my room mate checked in yet?"
"No, sir," the young lady said as her fingers flew over the keyboard. "The next flight is due to land in about an hour and a half. It will take another half hour for the rest of them to arrive here at the hotel."
"Do you know who it's going to be?" Greg asked as he glanced back in the bellboy's direction and caught the bellboy looking at him with the hint of a grin at the corner of his lips. The year was 2086, and that year Greg turned 101, but he made himself look like he was in his mid 20's to better play the role of a graduate student. The bellboy looked to be either in his late teens or just about to turn 21. Even from the distance across the lobby Greg made eye contact with the bellboy and knew he was in. His own smile widened.
"Not yet, sir," the clerk said. "We have three more empty rooms and then we'll start doubling up. Whoever is the sixth to check in will be assigned to your room."
"Fine," Greg smiled as he signed the electronic register. He figured he had a couple of hours at least.
"I'll get these for you, sir," the voice behind him said. Greg turned and the smiling bellboy was picking up his bags. The bellboy led the way to the elevators. No sooner had the doors closed when the guys' tongues were in each other's mouths, and they stayed that way during the ride up to the 10th floor. Within five minutes of entering the room clothes were scattered on the floor even though Greg's bags were unopened. A naked Greg was on top of and straddling the naked bellboy on the bed and both guys had a hard dick in their mouths. Greg took a load of cum in his ass and delivered one up the bellboy's butt. They went back and forth and fucked each other and trashed the bed.
As the bellboy was gathering up his clothes they heard suitcases thump on the floor outside the door, and Greg realized his room mate had arrived. The bellboy snatched up his clothes and held a finger to his lips. He scurried into a closet while Greg snickered. He knew the bellboy would have to stay hidden until his new room mate either left the room or at least went into the bathroom. He wasn't worried about the guy going to the closet first and discovering the bellboy, as a second's worth of eye contact was all Greg would need to wipe the memory from the guy's mind. He yanked on his pants and walked across the room to meet whoever his room mate was going to be.
The door opened and Greg saw a bent over butt as the guy was picking up his bags. He didn't have a bellboy with him and Greg wondered if the guy he just fucked was the only bellboy in the hotel. Just as Greg thought his new roomie looked familiar he turned around and smiled at Greg.
"Damn!!" Greg yelled and ran the rest of the way across the room with his arms outstretched.
Ken dropped his bags and wrapped his arms around Greg and they kissed with the door still open and Ken's bags halfway in. They hadn't seen each other since they started school over eight years ago. They kept in touch by email and phone but today was the first time they were actually able to touch each other. After a long time they finally pulled their tongues back in their own mouths.
"Surprised?" Ken grinned.
Greg grabbed Ken by his t-shirt and pulled him into the room. "Get in here!" he laughed. He grabbed Ken's bags and shoved them on into the room and slammed the door. They wrapped their arms around each other and kept their lips together again as Greg pulled Ken across the room and fell on the bed with Ken on top of him. While they hungrily made out, the bellboy tip toed out of the closet (dressed) and snuck out of the room.
"Only an hour!?!" Ken laughed as they both tried to cool off after a wild fuck. "I thought you'd last a lot longer than that!" Greg was panting and only reached over to tickle a grinning Ken. "You must be getting old!" Ken teased. "What are you now, over a hundred?"
"Oh shut up!" Greg laughed and playfully slapped Ken's butt. "I'm 101!"
Ken understood when Greg told him about screwing the bellboy right before Ken arrived. "No wonder I had to carry my own damn bags!" Ken said. "Not even here five minutes and already fuckin' the staff!" Greg only grinned.
Several thousand miles away in London, Ely was just getting over the same kind of surprise reunion with Alex. Greg had known that Ken was coming on the dig, but didn't know they would wind up being assigned to the same hotel room. Ken explained that when he'd checked in he asked the receptionist if Greg had arrived yet and which room he was in. Ken mentally passed instructions to the receptionist and she assigned Ken to the same room. Ely however had no idea that Alex had planned to surprise him with a visit in London while Ken worked with his professor on the dig in Egypt. They stayed naked and sticky on the bed, and got caught up with each other a bit and talked about the fun Ken and Greg were having in school.
"How long have you been here?" Alex asked.
"A couple of hours or so before you arrived I suppose," Ely answered. "Why?"
"That long!?!" Alex was surprised. "And you are still in the room? I thought by now you would be in the nearest restaurant testing the patience of the waiters and chefs!"
Ely rolled his eyes. "I am not that bad and you know it!" he grinned and shook his finger in Alex's face. "You know very well you always leave the dining choices to me and you have never regretted it!" he laughed.
Alex leaned over and quickly kissed Ely. "No you are not that bad at it - you are that good at it." Alex rolled onto his back on the bed, sighed, and looked out the window while Ely got up and headed to the bathroom. "That's one of the things I've always missed about you . . ." he mumbled.
Ely had walked into the bathroom before he turned with a puzzled look at Alex.
1280 BC - Egypt
Hitepi stormed through the halls of the palace with his robes billowing out behind him. He was in a foul mood and his anger seemed to radiate from him. He kept his eyes straight ahead, not looking left or right. He paid no attention to the palace servants scurrying to hide from his approach lest they incur his infamous wrath.
The Pharaoh's High Priest took no notice of or recognized the presence of the trembling servant who had no choice but to show himself long enough to hold open the doors of his private chamber. Hitepi stepped inside his chamber and turned only enough to grab the doors and slam them closed, the noise reverberating throughout the palace. He whipped off his ceremonial collar (always worn while in the presence of Pharaoh and his audience of commoners) and slung it across the room. He paid no attention to the noise of the collar clattering on the floor and slamming up against the wall. Only the servants wondered how someone could treat a golden collar festooned with rubies and emeralds so callously.
Hitepi walked out onto his balcony and looked down over the city and sighed. He stared and thought while he tried to calm down. He stood so still that an onlooker would have thought him a statue. Only his chest showed movement as his breathing slowed. Finally he turned and ambled over to his bed. He took off the special robe that showed his superior rank in the palace and let it fall to the floor, then pulled a chord which rang a bell; summoning a servant. An old man silently and shakily appeared at his door and pulled it open. Hitepi didn't look at him. "Kanem and Ishmani," he barked. "Then leave us!" The servant almost ran from the room. After completing his task he would happily tell the other servants they could rest easy. The master was always in a benevolent mood after receiving the ministrations of Kanem and Ishmani. The old man knew what the three of them did when they were alone, but dared not speak a word of it for fear of the executioner's sword. He also kept silent because what the two young men did for the master made all their lives a little easier.
Hitepi had no sooner laid on his bed than Kanem and Ishmani entered his chamber. They both appeared the right age to take a wife but neither gave that a single thought. They appeared the same age, but Ishmani was so much older than Kanem in reality. In the tradition of Egyptian nobility and royalty, both of their bodies were kept shaved smooth for cleanliness. Hitepi smiled when they entered the room. They both knew what was expected of them. They looked behind them to ensure that no one could see. They reached behind them and made a move that Hitepi didn't see, but suddenly their robes and tunics smoothly and quietly slipped from their bodies, and they finished walking across the room toward Hitepi naked and muscled and hard. As they walked, Hitepi changed from an old man into a young muscled and bronzed teenager.
They climbed up on Hitepi's bed on either side of him. Kanem began untying Hitepi's sandals while Ishmani started undoing his blouse for him. Ishmani touched Hitepi's lips with his finger tips. "You are so troubled," he said, concern in his voice. "What has you in such a state?"
Hitepi reached out to fondle Ishmani's phallus, pulling the skin back to release the head. "Let us not discuss it just yet," Hitepi said softly. He gently pulled on Ishmani's manhood and Ishmani swung a leg over and straddled Hitepi's now buff chest. While Kanem finished undressing his master, he watched Ishmani's butt move back and forth on Hitepi's chest, and listened to the sounds of slurping and lips smacking as Ishmani attended the master. Kanem stretched his body out between Hitepi's legs and added his own slurping sounds.
Later they lay sated on the bed with Hitepi's arms around the two young men, and Hitepi started talking to them. "It appears as though our time here together will soon come to an end," he said softly, not looking at either of them. Both of them stiffened. They rose up a bit to look the young Hitepi in his eyes.
"What has happened?" Ishmani asked, his voice cracking.
Hitepi sighed deeply. "I was with Pharaoh," he said. "He had just given an audience to Moses."
"Moses!?!" Kanem gasped. "But Moses was banished to the desert long ago! And he still lives!?"
"Oh yes! He lives," Hitepi nodded. "And he has come face to face with God."
Kanem and Ishmani gasped. "You mean he's..." Kanem started.
"No no, he is not one of us," Hitepi shook his head. "But he has no need to be. I could see it in his eyes. He has come on a mission bestowed on him by the hand of God Himself."
Ishmani stared deep in Hitepi's eyes. "A mission? What mission?"
"To free the Hebrews from their slavery and lead them to a land far from here."
Kanem and Ishmani looked at each other, puzzled. "But Moses' goal matches yours," Ishmani said. "What difference whether he frees the Hebrews or you do? They will be free. Is that not all that matters?"
"Oh it matters," Hitepi reached out and stroked Ishmani's face. "It matters gravely, but it is not the only matter. There is much more at stake than just the slavery of the Hebrews. My heart breaks for them with each crack I hear of an Egyptian whip! But it is too soon! The plans I have encompass far more. The freedom of the Hebrews is only one tiny piece of the work I have been doing. But it is the only goal in the mind of Moses. And I fear he will accomplish that goal much sooner than I anticipated. And when he does, he will leave here with no other thought for Egypt, and I will have to begin my task over again, and start with nothing."
"The freedom of the Hebrews is in the hands of Pharaoh, not Moses," Kanem said. "Moses holds no power over Pharaoh, and he holds no power over you."
"Remember, dear Kanem, I have seen him. I looked into his eyes and I know him. He acts with the power of God, and need not fear the power of mortals, nor our own power. He will win the freedom of the Hebrews, and he will win it quickly. Much too quickly for my plans, but it is no longer of any consequence." Hitepi stared into the distance while Ishmani rubbed his chest.
"Your work will not be for nothing," he told Hitepi softly. "As Moses is doing, you also work with the power of God. If Moses is not one of us, then he will ascend to the heavens in time but you and your work will go on. For that matter, so will Kanem and I."
Hitepi held them a little tighter. "Yes, you speak the truth Ishmani," he said through a sigh. "But as I said, I must begin again. From the beginning. And I am beginning to tire of that word!"
"You have an eternity," Kanem told him. "We all do. When one task is completed, another begins. What matter when it happens or how often?"
Hitepi looked at Kanem and smiled. He leaned up and quickly kissed his young protégé. "You speak with wisdom, dear Kanem." Kanem smiled and lowered his eyes. Hitepi went on. "Can that wisdom see that I also speak the truth when I said that our time together must soon come to an end?" Kanem smiled but shook his head. "Moses will win, of that I am sure. What I cannot tell is when. It could be days or months or years." Another dramatic sigh. "But when he does win he will lead the Hebrews from here. Moses will not stay with them forever, so when they do make their exodus from this place," Hitepi hugged Ishmani tighter, "you, my dear Ishmani must be among them." Ishmani stiffened again. Kanem lowered his eyes again but neither of them said anything.
"Moses will be with them for a time," Hitepi said. "But after him, they will have no one to watch over them without you, Ishmani. You - I have already taught all you need to know." He hugged Kanem with his other arm. "But your younger brother has only begun to learn. He needs more time." Over the next hour Hitepi told Ishmani what he must do when he traveled with the Hebrews, and how he must do it.
Ishmani was stifling tears. Through them he asked Hitepi, "And what will you do? How will you begin again? How will you do it without me?"
Hitepi grunted. "I will begin the same way I have always begun." He shrugged his shoulders. "Somehow." Ishmani leaned down and laid his head against Hitepi's chest while his mentor talked.
"I will have to become something else and someone else." Hitepi continued. "And so must you with me, Kanem. In truth, I grow weary of this place, these people, and this horrid person I must be. I grow tired of pretending to hate people I love, pretending to respect people I secretly laugh at, pretending to enjoy a life I despise. I work to ensure that such things come to an end quickly. That no one will be required to pretend to be someone they know they are not, but I cannot know when my success will come to pass. My fondest wish these days is that like Pharaoh I could simply command it. But even Pharaoh does not rule the entire world, and when the Hebrews leave they will extend that world even further and my work will become even more difficult." Kanem and Ishmani were both hugging Hitepi and leaning against him. "How I wish it was me who has the power to say, `So let it be written - so let it be done!'" He sighed deeply. "Instead, I must say, `I have failed.'"
PRESENT DAY, AND THEN SOME - Egypt
Greg and Ken stood with their shirts off, sweating in the afternoon sun. They had been digging since early that morning. They worked under Ken's professor and Dr. Stephen Rhys of the British Archeological Institute, who had been at this site for the past two years. The BAI had an agreement with various universities around the world to let exceptional graduate students come to Egypt to work on the dig, assist, and learn. Both Greg and Ken applied and were accepted. They were here to spend an entire semester with Dr. Rhys. They worked at the site until the heat of the day became too much, then worked indoors at either the museum or library, researching and reading, and practicing translating ancient documents.
The documents were what kept the guys' attention more than the dig. They sat together in the museum's vaults and poured over page after page. Most of what they worked on had already been well covered for generations, but it was still fun to work on them in their original state and somewhat original environment. The scrolls were kept in a secure group of rooms where the temperature and humidity were carefully and strictly controlled. Greg and Ken weren't allowed in the rooms after they had been working and digging at the site. They had to first go back to the hotel and shower, or even their sweat was enough to trip the humidity alarms in the museum.
Today they were anxious to get to the museum since they were going to be allowed access to those secure rooms. They actually showered quickly and left each other untouched in their haste to get to the museum. Even the bellboy wondered why they were in so much of a hurry that he was going to have to do without some dick today.
Dr. Rhys wanted them to go over documents from the beginning of the Roman takeover of the Egyptian empire. It was nothing new to anyone, but the guys were amazed to actually get to see the originals. Especially in this environment. Just being in Egypt, where to them it all began, gave both of them a burst of enthusiasm.
The museum's attendants brought them the documents encased in glass. They couldn't actually touch the pieces themselves, but they still got a thrill just running their fingers over the glass. The writings were in hieroglyphics, and translating them would normally have been easy for the guys, but they learned that the original documents and the original ink was faded and damaged and, in some cases, missing. That only made the experience more fun for them.
"I see I have company tonight."
Both guys almost jumped right out of their chairs. They were so engrossed that they didn't hear anyone approach. They looked behind them and saw that the voice came from a 50 something year old priest! He was in full uniform with the formal black robes and brilliant white clerical collar. But his smile was genuine and wide, and his eyes were laughing.
"I do apologize gentlemen," he snickered. "Please forgive me. I truly didn't intend to startle you. I am Father Petricello. Folks call me Father Pete for short." The guys introduced themselves and they all shook hands. "You are both graduate students, am I correct?" Father Pete asked.
"Yes, we are." Greg answered. "How did you know?" He and Ken were almost staring at the priest, slightly confused.
Father Pete laughed again. "I have seen it many times before! Your obvious enthusiasm, your total engrossment in these documents, your youth, and the fact that even though the doors here are two feet thick, you still didn't hear them clank open and closed. It all speaks of eager students who are in something of a playground."
The guys laughed and glanced at each other. "Yeah," Ken said. "We're graduate students working with Dr. Rhys for a semester."
"Ah, yes! Dr. Rhys, I know him very well. I know his program too. I should have known immediately who you were." He noticed the guys' confused looks. "I hope I'm not interrupting or imposing?"
"Oh no!" Ken said. "Not at all. I was just wondering why the Catholic Church would be interested in having a full time archeologist here in Egypt instead of in a church somewhere."
"Ah!" Father Pete said. "I am sure the Vatican is very interested. Every religion is working to find physical evidence to support their individual doctrines, but you see, I am not exactly a Catholic Priest. We are members of the Coptic Church here in Egypt. We don't answer to Rome, but to our patriarch in Alexandria. Not only that, but I became a trained archeologist first, and then I got the calling and joined the Church here in Cairo. I have a small parish in the city here. But archeology is still very much a passion."
The guys invited him to sit down. He looked over the documents spread out in front of them. "Ah yes - the Romans move into Egypt," he said. "As famous as Cleopatra is these days, she wasn't very well thought of in her own time, you know."
"That's right." Ken said. "It was said she handed Egypt to Rome on a silver platter."
"Well she had so much on that platter I doubt she knew what it was made of," Father Pete told them. He seemed to have as much fun talking to the guys as they had talking to him. He pointed to the document in front of Greg. "You know, I may be able to show you a trick or two to help fill in the missing gaps if you'd like."
They worked together for several hours. It turned out Father Pete was a frequent guest instructor at the local university and worked closely with Dr. Rhys. The guys were looking forward to spending more time with him in the future. Around nine o'clock Father Pete said he had to leave as he had an early mass in the morning. The guys volunteered to stay until the attendants put away the documents and signed them back in.
Father Pete left the building and ambled down the street. He pulled a cell phone from his pocket, dialed a number and put the phone to his ear. "Hello, Omar . . . It's me - are you busy? . . . Fine, fine. Listen, Omar, there are a couple of gentlemen I'd like you to keep an eye on. . . No, no, just an eye for now. But I think there is reason to use extra caution this time. I want you to come and see me before you begin. I must ensure they know nothing of what you are doing."
323 BC - BABYLON
Bagoas was granted entrance into Alexander's sleeping chamber. At least that's what would be written. In truth, he simply walked in. He'd been simply walking in for some years now, but such a familiar description was beneath the dignity of a king. Especially this king! So everyone who ever came face to face with Alexander was "granted" something or another according to the historians.
Bagoas sat next to Alexander's bed, reached over and felt his forehead. It was burning up. Alexander sighed and his eyes fought to open. He spent several seconds focusing in on Bagoas, then his dried and cracked lips spread into a smile. He slowly reached over to take his lover's hand.
"I am so glad to see you," Alexander whispered.
Bagoas smiled sadly. He took a cloth from a bowl next to the bed and bathed Alexander's face. "I wish - as you do - that it could be Hephaestion sitting here with you."
Alexander nodded. "But still you are a thing of beauty all your own." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I only wish I could enjoy you one more time."
Bagoas leaned over and lightly kissed Alexander's forehead. "You will be joining Hepaestion," he said in Alexander's ear. "There can be nothing better for you. I only wish you both will desire to receive me when my time comes."
Alexander managed a weak smile. "Those words have already been spoken between Hepaestion and I. Your reception is assured."
Bagoas snickered. "Brave words from one who has yet to join the Gods."
Alexander raised a finger but kept his eyes mostly closed. "The Oracles have assured me that Hepaestion already walks with the Gods. We have been apart too long. I wish to join him as much as I wish for you to join us when it is your time."
Bagoas shook his head. "My time is no matter," he said. "Your time should not be as near as you think. Never mind that you have a new empire not yet settled - you have an heir not yet born. You would not care that your son's eyes never see his father?"
"We have been through this, dear Bagoas," Alexander sighed.
They talked some more and smiled some more and stayed silent some more. Bagoas then walked out of Alexander's chamber for what he knew would be the last time. Alexander would not survive the night.
Bagoas walked out of the palace into the gardens. Those gardens of Babylon were famous the world over for their variety and beauty. Bagoas walked into them until he came to a small clearing that was empty and sat on a bench to think.
No one was around, so while Bagoas thought, his fair skin turned a deep golden brown. His somewhat frail arms and legs grew the muscles of a warrior. His light hair turned a dark brown, as did his eyebrows and all his body hair, which lengthened and thickened. His unblemished face darkened, lines grew around his eyes and mouth, and on his forehead.
He thought back several years ago when he was in Persia. Word was that a great conqueror was on his way. According to the news, the empire of Persia would seal the history books and make this Alexander person the only man to conquer the entire world.
Bagoas saw opportunity knocking and made his plans. He made himself look fair, young and appealing. He took the name "Bagoas" so the public would think him a eunuch. There were other eunuchs with the same name, so he thought it a perfect disguise. He insinuated himself into the court of King Darius III and, even to his own surprise, caught the eye and the heart of the king himself. He knew the king would be no real match for any warrior of the stature that Alexander was presumed to be. But he was not concerned with King Darius.
As Bagoas expected, Alexander rode into Persia, and after a lengthy war King Darius ran out of Persia. Darius ran and hid and was eventually assassinated by his own men. His General Nabarzenes won his own life by "presenting" Bagoas to Alexander as a gift, a thought that Bagoas himself planted in the general's head. Alexander almost didn't accept the Persian boy until Bagoas planted a similar thought into Alexander's head.
In the beginning, Bagoas feared that his plans would be for nothing. He was disappointed to learn that Alexander was already spoken for; in love with a man he'd known since boyhood. Hephaestion and Alexander were best friends first when they were young, and grew into lovers and stayed together. In spite of the political marriages to women by Alexander and Hephaestion and many of Alexander's soldiers, Alexander stayed true to Hephaestion, and Bagoas feared that his time with them would be much too short for him to accomplish his plans. As it happened, it was in fact Alexander's love for Hephaestion that was the undoing, but not in the manner Bagoas feared.
Over seven months ago Hephaestion took ill and died quickly. Since that time, Alexander's grief was uncontrollable. His mourning knew no bounds and he forgot about his conquests and his kingdom and his subjects and his future. Bagoas and many others tried, but Alexander refused to stop mourning the loss of his love.
Alexander mourned and moped and his depression sunk to frightening depths. The only orders he gave were to build statues and monuments to his dear Hephaestion. As his depression withered his mind, it also weakened his body. One day Bagoas saw in Alexander's eyes that he had contracted a disease himself, and would die from it. He would not be able to carry out the plans Bagoas had for the future of the human race. Had he stayed strong, Alexander would have needed only to command what Bagoas wanted him to command.
`How ironic' Bagoas thought as he stood and began walking out of the palace garden. `As strong and powerful as Alexander was - it was not a mighty warrior or cunning general or a strong king that beat him. It was something as simple and humble as love. Or the loss of love, anyway.' Bagoas shook his head. `Love conquered the Great Alexander, and it has in turn conquered me - and I have failed.' Bagoas walked out of the palace gardens and kept on walking without looking back.
PRESENT DAY, AND THEN SOME - London
The Charlotte Street Hotel rose up above the surrounding buildings: giving Ely and Alex a splendid view of Soho and other areas of London. It wasn't exactly a gay hotel, but that didn't bother either of the guys. Their penthouse suite had a private elevator, or "lift," as Ely joked about having to re-learn to call it. They could sneak as many guys up to their suite as they wanted. They enjoyed the view as they dressed to go out. They'd already had dinner and just wanted to walk around a bit and see the place.
They made themselves appear to be in their early twenties so they could mingle with the other young folk on the streets. They walked a few blocks from their hotel and strolled down Old Compton Street, which they were told was the heart of the gay area called Soho, as Soho was the heart of the gay areas of London. As they walked, they smiled at the other guys walking on the street holding hands and kissing and making out much as they did in Miami.
They stopped at the Balans Café to have some tea and watch Soho walk by. They sat near the window so they could look outside and smile at the colored hair and pierced bodies and tattooed art on the skin.
"The last time I was here," Ely told Alex, "this entire area was farmland."
Alex laughed. "Your real age is showing!" Ely playfully slapped Alex's thigh under the table. "When were you here last exactly?" Alex asked.
"In the 1600's," Ely sighed. "A few of us were trying to quell the witch hunts." He shook his head. "Such foolishness!"
Alex nodded. "I went through the same thing in Massachusetts. But it's not easy to blame them. They had no solid information to go on. Only their own beliefs. Fortunately they eventually learned to constantly weigh their beliefs against what facts they knew."
"That's true," Ely agreed. "But here in London they should have known better. I have been back since then, but only for a short time and I didn't come to this area." He smiled at Alex. "I would assume it has been much longer for you. You have almost no trace of an accent left."
Alex snickered. "No, I don`t," he said. "The last time I was here, London itself only covered about a square mile, and it was walled in." He looked out the window as if he was trying to see all of present day London in one look. "I doubt I could find anything left over from those days now."
"Now you are the one showing your age!" Ely laughed.
"The only other time I was here was for a short time like you did," Alex continued. "That was when I recruited you and trained you."
Ely nodded. "That was not such a short time," he pointed out. "You spent over twenty years with me."
"Yes," Alex leaned back and remembered. "But after spending centuries elsewhere, twenty years was only a short break. Barely enough time to have a good dinner!" They both laughed, and then Alex looked seriously at Ely. "It was a great twenty years, though."
Ely stared at Alex for a few seconds. "You are beginning to frighten me," he finally said. Alex raised his eyebrows. "Are you and Ken doing okay? Is something wrong?"
Alex shook his head. "We're fine," he told Ely. "There's nothing wrong at all. I wish he was here, or I could be in Egypt with him. I miss him terribly."
"And yet," Ely said softly, "you seem to be trying to resurrect memories that I am not prepared to go into."
Alex lowered his head. "We used to be in love," he said, as if he was talking to the table. "I find it difficult to spend time with you and not remember that." He raised his head to look at Ely. "I guess I also find it a little disturbing that you seem to be able to."
"Now you`re making assumptions."
Alex shrugged. "I guess I would like to think that I made a bit more of an impression on you than that. Or something like that."
Ely reached over and took Alex's hand. "You told me yourself when you were training me that we don't have much of an ego left as we no longer need one."
Alex broke into a grin and nodded. "That's true, but I did say `not much.' We still have something of an ego left, and mine kicks in whenever I think that you have forgotten me that completely."
"No no," Ely smiled. He reached over with his other hand and held Alex's hand in both of his. "I have not forgotten you completely. I have not forgotten you at all. I think of you as closer than a brother. Even something of a father. Most certainly my dearest friend. If I ever lost contact with you I would tear myself up looking for you." He reached up and cupped Alex's face in his hands. "But I am in love with Greg now. It is not the fault of either of us that we only loved each other for a short time. But that time is in the past now. My goodness, it was over seven hundred years ago! I have always thought that you felt the same way."
Well," Alex lowered his head again with a small smile. "I did feel that way. In fact, I've felt that way all that time." He looked back at Ely. "But we hardly ever saw each other all those years. Only occasionally when we had a gathering. Certainly not when you went to Florida and I went to Japan to study." He reached up to hold Ely's hands. "It was easy to feel that way when we weren't together. But Ely, when you called me to ask me to help see you through telling Greg the truth - when you called me right out of the blue and said `I need you,' - it all came rushing back."
Ely looked away and stared out into space. "It did for me too, and I almost didn't call you," he said. "But I was frightened then. I was ready to do anything to ensure I wouldn't lose Greg." He looked back at Alex and rubbed his hands a little. "Perhaps it was a mistake to have called on you?"
Alex immediately shook his head. "I would have been upset if I ever found out that you didn't call on me. But when it all came back, it seems like I am going through all the same emotions I did last time. It`s getting tough to keep it all at bay."
"Does Ken know how you feel?"
Alex nodded. "Yes, he does. I talked to him about it at length. In fact, it was his idea for me to come here while he and Greg were in Egypt, so we could talk."
"Ken's wisdom is certainly showing."
Alex smiled. "Yes, yes it is. And there is certainly wisdom there."
"Do you understand that it was most likely also Ken's idea to send you here to see me so he can see once and for all how you really feel about him?"
Alex nodded and tried not to laugh. "I'm confused right now, Ely," he said. "But only confused. I`m still very much in love with Ken. When he sees me again and has his answer," he winked at Ely, "he will be very happy, I know that."
"I've never thought about it before," Ely said reflectively. "But I wonder if it would be possible for any of us to love more than one man?"
"Apparently not," Alex said and frowned. "At least I don't think it's possible for me to. And it seems not you either."
"And yet that appears to disappoint you. I don`t understand."
Alex shook his head again. "Not really disappointment," he said. "I guess maybe in the back of my mind I was kind of hoping you would feel like you do. It makes all this easier."
"I had no idea," Ely said. The concern in his eyes was genuine. "You never said a word."
Alex shrugged slightly. "I never intended to say anything when we went to Florida. I could see how upset you were, and how you and Greg felt about each other. Besides, Ken was with me then. He made it easier."
"You also said nothing a couple of years later when we came to visit you in Denver," Ely said. "I wasn't upset then."
"Again," Alex smiled, "Ken was with me. I saw no need to stir up muddy waters anyway, and with Ken around I had no desire to cause any trouble."
Ely grinned. "And now that both Greg and Ken aren't here, it is alright to cause trouble?"
Alex slapped Ely's thigh again, "Stop!" he laughed.
"Alex, look," Ely reached up and with a couple of fingers pulled Alex's chin until they were looking into each other`s eyes. "Go ahead and see for yourself."
The ability to "read" humans was put to use all the time, but the ability to read each other did come with some etiquette. It simply wasn't done between each other, as humans rifling through each other's wallets and dresser drawers to look for evidence of wrongdoing wasn't done. Or at least wasn't supposed to be done. It was a gross invasion of privacy. So it was only done on invitation, which was what Ely was doing with Alex now. They hardly ever let any discussion degenerate into an argument or lover's spats. When things looked like they were moving in that direction, the two of them simply let each into the other's minds. True feelings, when they are known, are almost impossible to argue with anyway.
Alex made eye contact with Ely and in only a couple of seconds he saw that Ely wasn't trying to hide anything. He saw back several years and saw himself in Ely's memory. It even went back over the past several centuries and Alex saw that he was always in Ely's thoughts. He was happy with the knowledge that Ely was seeing the same thing in his own mind. They backed out of each other's minds and Alex had a guilty grin on his face.
"I hope you feel better." Ely smiled.
"I do," Alex nodded, "I do. And I feel relieved."
"Just don't wait so long the next time you wonder about anything." Ely leaned forward and gave Alex a quick kiss. "I could have saved you a lot of anxiety," he looked down at his tea cup. "And some of my own." Alex patted Ely's hand. He had also seen in Ely's mind that Ely was as happy that Alex had Ken as much as Alex was happy that Ely had Greg.
The sounds of cell phones ringing and playing songs and tinkling and jingling were all through the café. One of the first talents any one with a cell phone learns is how to ignore the sound of all the other phones except their own. Ely reached into his pocket without anyone around them paying any attention. He glanced at the phone's screen and smiled. "Ah!" he said, "Speak of the Devil, as the humans say." Alex watched as Ely flicked open his phone.
"You are late checking in!" Ely laughed at Greg on the other end. . . "No no, we are both dressed, we are in a café enjoying a cup of tea, and we are behaving ourselves. You and Ken, I suspect, are in your room, you are both naked, you are both sweating, and you have at least one other guy with you and you haven't even asked him his name yet . . . Yes, we did earlier in our suite. So how are your studies going? Are you enjoying playing in the dirt?" Alex laughed. "No world changing discoveries yet, eh? . . . No, not at all. We're just enjoying the view is all. What's on your mind? . . . Really? . . . No, no human can do that. He can only be one of us . . . He did? . . . Well I don't see why. Normally we would simply introduce ourselves. Normally we would be happy to meet one another . . . Well that's odd. And also I would think he would simply ask you. I'm sure he tried with you and Ken, too . . . Maybe he's working on something he wants kept quiet, but I still don't understand why he would do that. In any case, I don't think it's cause for concern unless something else happens. Do you want us to come down? . . . Well if you do just call and we'll take the next flight . . . I do too, my love. An entire semester is much too long. I can't wait, either." Ely blew a quick kiss into the phone. "I love you too, Greg. Now give the phone to Ken and I'll put Alex on." He handed the phone to Alex and sat back to think while Alex talked to Ken.
It seems Greg and Ken had met a man - a priest even. Not so strange in itself, but as they had been taught, they tried to read the priest when they met, but couldn't. They both made eye contact with the priest but saw nothing at all. It could only mean that the priest had a mental block in place. As Ely told Greg, and Alex reiterated with Ken, humans can't block their minds. That could only mean that the priest was one of them! But even so, their own etiquette dictated that they simply introduced themselves and exchanged pleasantries and told each other how old they were, how old they were when they ended their human lives and completed the change, etc.
It was odd that the priest had a block in place, and didn't say anything to Greg and Ken when he in turn wasn't able to read them. Both guys had their own mental blocks in place and surely the priest tried to read them. It didn't seem to Ely to be alarming, but it certainly was strange. . . .
1542 AD - Rome
The city's poorest scurried with their heads bowed to clear the way for the priest; their fear of him palpable. They spent their lives being poor and sickly, having no energy or inclination to argue with the church that ruled over every aspect of their lives more than the state government, and the man walking down the street who represented that church struck the same fear in them a dictator`s secret police would.
The priest walked quickly, his eyes riveted straight ahead, his strides long and purposeful, his cape billowing out behind him. He appeared not to notice the street urchins peeking out from behind doorways and garbage piles, eyeing him warily. In truth he saw them all. He knew better than to stop to speak to them, for they would only be frightened further. They and their ancestors going back many generations had also endured the plague. That evil was diminishing these days, but while its remnants could still be seen everywhere, it was no more apparent than here in the dregs of the city. The ravages of that disease, their poverty, and the crushing influence of the church is what sent them into hiding at his approach.
These urchins were not the reason for the priest's strides or his temperament. He had just come from seeing the Pope. He didn't have an appointment, nor was he summoned. He didn't get to actually sit down with the Bishop of Rome, but that didn't matter. He had only needed to see him briefly anyway. A few seconds of eye contact was all that was necessary to ascertain what he needed to know. He didn't care what happened next.
He had traveled to Rome from England. By foot, ship, and mule it had taken him a long time, and he had seen much along the way to fuel his anger. In France he had seen the existence of the embarrassment that would come to be known as the Inquisition. He had stood and watched while a man who had been proclaimed by the Catholic Church as "guilty" of not subscribing to the beliefs of the Church was given his punishment. Amazingly, when the man refused to embrace the teachings of the Church, he was sentenced not merely to death, but death by burning at the stake. The priest was outraged. A crowd had gathered around to watch, and see an example of the fate that awaited them should they commit the "crime" of not being Catholic.
The man's screams cut through the air even before the flames reached him. The priest had managed to work his way to the front of the crowd; his collar and robes ensuring a path was made for him. He looked up at the man's terrified face, made eye contact and entered his mind. He caused a blood vessel on both sides of the man's brain to burst; causing a major stroke, and killing him painlessly before he could feel the torture of the flames.
While the priest couldn't save the man's life, he at least avoided a painful death for him, but that poor man was only one. The priest heard of many, too many to count, who endured the same fate. He saw too much on his travels, heard too much, knew of too much. He had seen it first in England, and England wasn't even a Catholic state, but even the Church of England took part for a time.
His sense of rage was what those he came in contact with saw on the outside, but it was his own sense of responsibility and guilt that he kept on the inside. Several hundred years ago it was in fact, he, who had planted the thought in a few priest's heads that the Church should coordinate its efforts to bring wayward souls into its fold. He had intended for those efforts to be in the form of education, an offering, an extending of a friendly hand. He wanted the church to work on ways to see to it that wherever anyone went in the world and wanted to receive the teachings of the church; that those teachings would be uniform. That all priests, regardless of their heritage or language, would be taught the same ideas that came from the same source. It was this consistency, the priest thought, that would make the church stronger, and being stronger, would help pull the entire world together.
At the time, every sect of organized religion he came in contact with exerted what he considered to be undue control over the thoughts and actions of its followers. He had chosen the Catholic Church because that church appeared to have the organization and influence necessary to accomplish his task on a world wide basis. Its representatives appeared to have a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of the people more than some need to control them, and he decided that it was this church that should spread the world over. But he certainly intended for it to happen peacefully!
Instead, he'd learned, the church took a completely different path. It became less of a church and more of an invading military force. The priest's intent for education became the Inquisition, the offering became an extremely biased court, and the hand extended only to light the bonfires that executed those who dared to disagree. Throughout his travels from England, the priest saw the fear of the people, their unwillingness to speak lest their words be used against them in the church's courts. Even the state governments and the politicians bowed to the pressure of the church to protect themselves from the accusations that could lead not just to the loss of their exalted positions, but the loss of their very lives.
At the church in Rome, the priest encountered only mild protest from the Pope's minions. Mild, mainly due to the power in the priest's eyes. At first they had no intention of even entertaining the thought of allowing the priest an audience with the pope, but the priest easily changed their thoughts. He answered only a few of their questions, telling them that he received his training and ordination right there in Rome, that he had traveled outside Italy afterwards. It wasn't true, but he was not concerned with that. He only said what he felt he needed to say to stall for time until he could find a way to accomplish his goal. As it turned out, the Pope himself walked into the room and the priest made eye contact. He almost fainted at what he learned.
It was not going to stop, he'd realized at that point. The Pope had no intention of putting a stop to the madness. He had seen in the man's eyes that he would not be satisfied with merely being a leader for his church. This Pope, the same as his predecessors, wanted total domination. He wanted to rule. He wanted to rule not merely as kings rule, but he wanted to rule the kings themselves! He was only using the current situation as a means to an end, and the means had no consequence as long as it facilitated the end.
The Pope had quickly left the room, followed by his entourage, but several of his minions remained. They seemed to follow some unspoken plan, and the priest found himself surrounded. He glanced around him at the other priests, and as he did so, he made eye contact with all of them and discovered that the pope was not alone in his thinking. It was a total conspiracy!
He heard voices coming at him from around the circle but paid little attention to them. He was concentrating instead on what he read in their eyes. The truth, after all, was in their eyes, not their voices. There was agreement among all of them that he needed to be "persuaded," and if that failed - silenced. But he also saw in their eyes that several of them would soon be of no consequence.
In one he saw a concern for recent pains in his chest accompanied by difficulty in breathing that only waned when he rested. The man quickly planted a thought of denial in the priest's head so he would not seek medical advice, and therefore expedite the progress of the disease and end his influence quickly.
In another he saw the beginning of another disease and planted a hunger for sweets to increase his sugar intake and speed up the end of his influence. He couldn't find an excuse to do the same to all of them, however. Not in the seconds he had before he would have to leave.
They were plying him with doctrine, canon law, and such declarations that he was required by his collar to accept without question. They were reminding him of his sworn duty to support the church in all matters and at all times. His earlier questions about the executions were only met with a curt, "The Church does not execute anyone. The state, and not the Church, is solely responsible for the executions. It is not for the Church to interfere with the state." The unspoken sentence that followed was, "It is also not for the state to interfere with the Church!" They were all staring at him, the look in their eyes clearly warning him that he was expected to agree. Instead he spun around and broke the circle of robes and collars surrounding him and stormed to the door.
He opened the door and turned to the puzzled leaders. "My. . .colleagues," he spat at them. "When the Church declares a man a heretic, knowing full well that such a declaration means the end of his life - his blood falls equally on the hands of the Church. And all of you know that!" As he stormed out of the church, another priest entered the room and reported to the group of bewildered priests that there was no record on the man who had just left. That man, who had dared to speak to all of them as he had, had the audacity to take that tone with them, wasn't even a member of the priesthood!
The urchins were only happy that the angry priest passed them by without a glance, and without a lecture. They didn't know that the priest they saw appeared completely different than the priest who stormed out of the meeting minutes ago. The priest passed street after street, not paying any mind to the goings on there. He was trying to make plans. He had to stop the madness! He was thinking that he had to find a way and act quickly.
He didn't know at the time that the Catholic Church would not officially ban the use of torture with heretics until almost 400 years later in 1917!
PRESENT DAY - AND THEN SOME - Egypt
"What's up?" Greg asked. He and Ken were back in the vaults of the museum poring over more ancient documents. Ken was busily flipping pages in his notebook while a deep frown creased his forehead.
"Damn. I don't know how I missed this!" Ken mumbled.
Greg looked over at Ken's notes. "Missed what?"
Ken pointed to the document in front of him. "Here," he said. "This figure here - I don't have it in my notes. I thought I translated the whole thing the other day. I have the rest of it, but not this part here."
Greg looked at the document. Ken was pointing to a figure of a man that Greg thought represented the religious side of Egypt in those days. He seemed to be wearing a large cape, but the ink was terribly faded. He turned to his own notes and soon was frowning as Ken was. "Hmmm," he said, "I don't have it either."
Ken rubbed his eyes. "Damn! Maybe we've been spending too much time in here if both of us missed the same thing."
Greg snickered. "Well we sure haven't been getting enough sleep!" He reached over and rubbed Ken's neck. "We don't need to get to bed any earlier, but we oughta get to sleep sooner."
Ken chuckled too. "And we need to start going to bed, and going to sleep alone!"
"Let's give it up for tonight," Greg said as he started closing his notebooks. "We can go to the hotel and get a good dinner, go up to our room and sack out the rest of the night. We'll come back tomorrow or the next day and check it all out again."
"I have a better idea," Ken sighed. "Let's call the hotel from here and have room service send dinner to our room. It should get there about the same time we do. Once I get in the room I don't want to leave again." He stretched and yawned.
"I like your idea!" Greg smiled.
The huge door to the vault clanged open and Father Pete walked in. He saw the guys and smiled.
"Hey, Father," Greg and Ken said together.
Father Pete tilted his head. "You two look beat," he said. "How long have you been down here tonight?"
"We're stopping right now," Greg told him. "We were at the dig since dawn, and in here since this afternoon. We've been doing that for the past few days and it's catching up to us."
"Yeah," Ken agreed. "We're going back to the hotel to eat and turn in early." He pointed to the document in front of him. "We both missed something here and we shouldn't have. It was silly, so we figured we're just not concentrating enough."
Father Pete leaned over to look where Ken was pointing. "Well . . ." he said while rubbing his chin, "It is smudged quite badly." He glanced up at the guys and smiled. "I wouldn't blame you at all for missing it at a first glance. I don't remember that far back, but I most likely missed it myself the first time I saw it." The guys could see he was only trying to help them feel better, but appreciated it all the same.
"Yes, Father, but we both missed it at the same time." Ken said through another yawn. "We just haven't been working up to snuff and it's starting to show."
Father Pete reached out and patted Ken's back. "I'm sure that's not true," he said. "As I said, I see it all the time. You both are simply trying to do too much too fast, and that's all. I bet you spend half the time out on the dig, half the time working on your project in here, half the time trying to take in all the sights of Egypt, and half the time having whatever kind of fun you young folks have these days." The guys were nodding and glancing at each other and snickering.
"Where do you guys always get the idea that you have to do it all in one day?" Father Pete laughed. "You know..." he pulled out a chair and sat. Like most people who go into the teaching mode, he held one finger up in the air to make a point. "You can almost name any world famous archeologist of any age, and the odds are he spent his entire career on just one subject area." He pointed in a general direction behind him, indicating something outside. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if Dr. Rhys spends his entire career on this one dig!" Then he started ticking off items on his fingers to the guys. "The dig itself is only one aspect of the entire project as you both well know. Then there is the cataloguing of the pieces found, and then the analysis of their meaning, and then writing the papers and articles." He shrugged and held up both hands in mock surrender. "It's not difficult to understand why one project can take up so much of an archeologist's time, indeed, an entire career." He reached out and tapped the glass enclosing the document Ken was working on. "In here you both are working on a completely different subject area than you are out on the dig, and you are putting in at least the same hours Dr. Rhys is. It's no wonder you are so tired and can't concentrate." He smiled at them. "Right now you look too tired to concentrate even on dinner," he told them. He shook his head, still smiling. "Eager students! I see it all the time."
Greg stood up and started gathering up his notebooks. Ken reached for the documents encased in glass, and Father Pete reached out to stop him. "Leave them," he said. "You two go on and have a good meal and get some rest. I'll have the attendants put these away for you. I'll sign them back in."
"Thanks, Father," Greg said wearily. "When we get caught up with things we'll have to take you out to dinner for sure."
"Don't worry about it, guys. Dinner sounds wonderful, mind you, but I know what being over worked feels like. I'm glad to help."
Greg and Ken walked out of the vaults and into the main areas of the museum. Ken flipped open his cell phone to call the hotel and have dinner sent to their room. Back in the vaults, Father Pete sat frowning at the document Ken was working on. He was shaking his head.
As they walked up to the entrance to the hotel, Ken told Greg, "You know, I think what we really need is a little more than dinner. We need to feed."
Greg nodded. "You're right," he said. "We need to find us a guy - and fairly quick or we won't have the strength."
"Maybe dinner will be delivered by the bellboy," Ken said. "We could just put him under real quick and go for it. He shouldn't worry too much about a hickey. Or we could use the back of his knee or something."
Greg chuckled softly. "You know we can't get him up to our room and not have some fun with him. He`s too damn cute!" Ken nodded with a smile. Greg stopped and grabbed Ken's arm to hold him back before they went through the door. "Wait a second - how about we feed off the receptionist?"
Ken wrinkled his nose. "A girl?!"
"Yeah!" Greg said. He was remembering that years ago Ely had told him, "Being able to change your entire gender can come in exquisitely handy!" He leaned over and whispered the idea to Ken. "As long we don't plan on having any fun with it anyway, now's the time to go for it."
Ken shrugged his shoulders, "Allright." They went in to the lobby and Ken leaned over and whispered, "A girl?!?"
She was a young girl, probably working her way through college. Pretty and slim, Greg knew if they could look like her they wouldn't have any problems attracting straight guys for some naked fun. Greg had already seen it at work when Ely did it, but it was a new idea to Ken. Rather than take the time to sit and tell Ken all about it, Greg stopped him in the middle of the lobby. He looked into Ken's eyes, and in the time it would take for an onlooker to think the two guys only glanced at each other, Greg transferred the memories of the things he and Ely did with Ely as a woman into Ken's mind. Ken's face broke into a wide grin. "Okay!" he said.
They walked up to the reception counter, ostensibly to ask for any messages. When the girl glanced up at them, Greg's eyes grabbed and held hers. She stared at him, smiling. "When do you get off work?" Greg asked.
"At 11 tonight," she said.
"Do you get a break or something before that?" Greg asked. Anyone watching would have thought they were only talking about hotel business.
"I get 15 minutes in about an hour."
`Perfect,' Greg thought. Aloud he said, "Come to room 1020 in an hour."
"Certainly, sir," she said, still with the smile plastered on her face.
The elevator doors opened on the 10th floor and the guys saw that dinner was just being wheeled up to their room. The bellboy opened their door for them and winked at them. "Would you like me to come - for the dishes - later?" he asked with a leer.
Ken shook his head and patted the bellboy on his shoulder. "Don't worry about them `til tomorrow. We'll just eat and then sack out for the night."
"You both do look like you need to take some time for yourselves," the bellboy said. "You have some big bags under your eyes like you haven't slept in days."
"We get the picture!" Greg laughed. "Tonight and tomorrow we aren't going to give archeology a single thought." He put his arm around the bellboy and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "But you have to admit that at least some of it is your fault." He playfully slapped the bellboy's butt. "You keep swinging this cute little butt in our faces and we forget all about sleep!"
The bellboy snickered and backed up against the wall. He held his hands up in mock surrender. "Okay, guys! See? No butt." He slid against the wall to the door. "I will leave you now and I won't turn around so you won't see my butt!"
The guys laughed. "Just make sure you deliver our dinner tomorrow night!" Greg told him.
Ken added, "And bring your butt with you!"
They had an hour, so they ate slowly, for the first time in several days taking the time to actually enjoy the meal. Greg thought that Ely would be pleased. They went through the entire meal and desert almost without saying a word to each other.
Only a few minutes after they finished, there was a knock on the door. Greg winked at Ken and went to open it. The receptionist stood at the door smiling, her eyes bright, but, seemingly to the guys, unfocused. "May I help you sir?" she asked.
Within a few minutes she was laying on her stomach on the bed with her eyes closed. The guys only pulled down her stockings. The door to the room was closed, but had it been open, anyone walking past would have been shocked to see two guys on either side of her, busily sucking on the area right behind her knees. The blood vessels there were just under the skin, and it was easy to use suction to draw it up to the surface, where the guys hungrily lapped it up neatly, without leaving any more than a small bruise that her stockings hid completely.
After she left the room, the guys were smiling at each other. "Man I feel so good now!" Ken said.
"I know what you mean," Greg answered. "It's amazing how that works. We'll have to be careful not to go so long without feeding again. Did Alex tell you what happens if we wait too long?"
"Yeah," Ken said. "And I'm not interested in finding out how I'd look being that old!"
Greg sat on the bed and took his shirt off. He grinned at Ken. "Let's find out how we'd look if we were women."
Ken took off his shirt and sat next to Greg. They pulled their pants off and sat in their underwear. They closed their eyes and told themselves they were women now, and then opened their eyes. They looked at each other while seeing themselves in the mirror at the same time. The first thing that amazed them was they were twins. They both looked exactly like the receptionist.
"Wow!" Greg said. He was looking at himself in the mirror, and at Ken, who was doing the same thing.
"Damn!" Ken said. He looked down and saw that he had breasts. Not pecs - breasts. Not huge ones, but perky. At least a good handful. He looked at Greg, who had exactly the same. They started giggling. "Nice tits!" Ken laughed.
Greg stood up and struck a pose for Ken, making them laugh. He shook his shoulders, making the breasts jiggle, and Ken laughed. He stood up in front of Greg, reached out, and fondled Greg's breasts. Greg reached out and squeezed Ken's.
"That actually feels kind of good!" Ken said. "Amazing!" He took hold of Greg's nipples and pinched them.
"Ooohhh!" Greg moaned. "Unbelievable!" He did the same for Ken.
Ken smiled and hooked this thumbs into the waistband of his underwear. "Let's go whole hog," he said. "We're not finished." He pushed his underwear down.
Greg looked down and his jaw dropped open. "Where's your dick!" he hooted. "Your dick's gone!"
Ken reached over to Greg and pulled his shorts down. "So's yours!"
They pulled their underwear and socks off and stood naked in front of each other. They felt each other's bodies, breasts, and stomachs. They sat back down on the bed and spread their legs. "Oh man!" Greg said. "I've got a pussy! A real live pussy! Look at this!"
Ken was laughing. "Yeah! Just like mine." His hand was between his legs. He looked at Greg, and put his hand on Greg's thigh.
Greg spread his legs. "I just decided something," he giggled.
They fell back on the bed laughing. They played with their breasts and with each others'. Ken reached over to Greg and felt his pussy.
"Mmmm that feels good!" Greg said. He watched Ken's hand between his legs and smiled.
"Maybe to you," Ken said. "But to me it feels like there's nothing there!" He took hold of Greg's hand and shoved it between his legs. "Feel my pussy!" Greg did, clumsily rubbing it up and down. "Damn! You're right! It does feel good!"
"I'm not sure what to do," Greg laughed. "How are you supposed to play with these damn things? There`s nothing to grab hold of!"
"Well..." Ken scratched his head. "Oh wait! I know!" He slid off the bed and turned around so he was kneeling on the floor leaning across the bed; right between Greg's legs. He reached out and spread Greg's cunt lips apart. "There's a hole in here somewhere, isn't there?"
"I sure hope so!" Greg laughed. Ken's hands slid around and found Greg's clit. "Oh shit that's nice!!" Greg's head fell back and he arched his hips up. He slammed his hand down on Ken's and made him rub his clit harder. "Keep doing that Ken! Oh man, that's good!" Suddenly his hand forced Ken's to rub his clit vigorously. "Oh shit Ken! Aww fuck!!"
Greg's whole body arched and humped and quivered. He moaned and rubbed and shook and hollered. Then he relaxed and pulled Ken's hand off his cunt. He raised his head and looked between his legs. Ken was staring wide eyed at Greg. "Ooo man! I just had an orgasm!"
"You did?" Ken asked. He looked confused. He rubbed Greg's pussy a bit and shrugged his shoulders. "Are you sure? Nothing came out."
Greg tried to look closer. "It didn't? Sure felt like it did." He grabbed Ken and pulled him up on the bed. "Spread your legs. Let me see yours."
They switched positions and Greg knelt between Ken's legs. He reached out and rubbed his thumb up and down the lips of Ken's pussy. Ken let his own head fall back and moaned. Greg spread Ken's lips apart and rubbed some more. Ken reached down and rubbed his own clit like Greg had done.
"It's all wet." Greg said. He grinned at Ken. "How about that? Natural lube!" Ken almost didn't hear. Suddenly his body shook like Greg's had done and he had his own orgasm. He grabbed a pillow and slammed it down on his face and screamed through it.
His body still shook some and Greg kept his thumb just inside Ken's cunt. He looked up at Ken. "You okay?"
Ken panted and smiled. "I'm real good!"
Greg's thumb suddenly sunk further into Ken's pussy. He looked at Ken and smiled. "Here it is!"
Ken looked at Greg's hand. "Here's what?"
"The hole! I'm in it." He started moving his thumb in and out. "Here's where you get fucked."
Ken started bucking his hips again. "That feels damn good too! Keep doing that. Fuck I feel like I can cum again!"
"It's really wet in here!" Greg said, surprised. "And slippery as hell! Women are lucky! I bet they save a fortune in lube!"
Ken reached down and grabbed Greg's hand. He forced Greg to slam his thumb in his cunt and bucked his hips and slammed the pillow back down on his face and came again, screaming and shaking longer than he did the first time, keeping Greg's thumb buried in his hole. Greg was staring at Ken, afraid to move.
Ken calmed down and Greg slowly took his thumb out of Ken's pussy while Ken panted. Suddenly Greg yelled, "Oh shit!!"
Ken's head snapped up. "What?"
Greg held his thumb up. It was red. "Blood!" he yelled. "You're fuckin' bleeding, Ken!" He jumped up and ran into the bathroom, turned the faucet on in the sink and vigorously washed his hand. Ken knew why. It was definitely not a good idea to get their own blood on each other.
Ken sat up and looked down. His thighs were slightly smeared with his blood. "Ewww," he said. He stood up and walked into the bathroom, trying to keep his thighs apart. "What the hell did you do?" he asked Greg as he stepped into the shower. He pulled the curtain and turned on the water.
Now that Greg's hands were clean he felt safe. He started laughing again. "Hey you're not supposed to walk like that unless you just got fucked!"
"Oh shut up!" Ken laughed in the shower.
"We just found out something else about that receptionist," Greg told Ken through the shower curtain. "She's a virgin."
"Oh yeah! That's right," Ken called out. He pulled the shower curtain open just enough to stick his head out. He grinned at Greg and batted his eyes like women do. "That means you just popped my cherry. You're my first love!" he said dramatically.
"Aww shit!" Greg laughed hard enough to have to hold on to the sink to keep from falling.
They joked with each other while Ken finished showering. He stepped out of the shower and stood in front of Greg and shrugged his shoulders. "I like you better with a dick," he said simply.
Greg nodded. "Same here. This was kind of fun, but it'd be a lot better if I had a straight guy's dick to play with."
"Well now we can!" Ken said. "That sounds great. I've never done that before but I sure want to. Meantime," he said as he spread his arms out, "I feel better having my dick back," and changed back into himself.
"Good idea!" Greg said.
"Wait!" Ken stopped Greg. "Before you change, you better get in the shower and take care of your own cherry. Don't want any accidents at the wrong time."
"You're right," Greg said and stepped in the shower. He looked at Ken as he started to work his fingers into his own pussy. "Did it hurt? I heard it's supposed to hurt."
Ken shook his head. "I think it's supposed to, but I didn't feel any pain at all. We don't feel pain anymore, remember?"
"Oh yeah, that's right," Greg said and rammed his own fingers up his pussy while he let the water stream down his body and wash the blood away. He didn't look down until a couple minutes passed because he didn't want to gross himself out. He stepped out of the shower with his dick back. "That feels better," he told Ken.
Ken went and pulled the blankets down on his bed. "I came twice, and I feel beat again," he told Greg. "We still need some rest after all, I guess."
Greg said and headed for his own bed, "You're right. I still feel tired. I feel normal again, but tired."
"We were working too hard anyway, and it still shows. We'll take tomorrow off anyway and take it easy and find something fun to do."
Back in the museum's vaults, Father Pete was just having the documents the guys were using put away. Since the vaults were underground, cell phones didn't work. He hurried up into the museum and flipped open his phone as soon as he entered the lobby, and was talking as he walked out the door.
"Hello, Omar...it's me . . . Fine, fine - listen, have you any news for me? . . . Well of course they're lovers! I figured that out for myself! Have you any news of substance for me?!?" He rolled his eyes, frowning. "I know they're students, too, Omar! You have nothing to tell me I don't already know, isn't that right? . . . Well listen, I want you to be able to hear what they are talking about in their room at the hotel . . . Yes, but don't bug it until the day after tomorrow. They're taking tomorrow off anyway, and won't get in our way here at all . . . Oh I most certainly hope not! I'm sure they are completely innocent, but it doesn't matter - they may be getting too close even if they don't realize it themselves. Right now I'm thinking that all I may need to do is steer them onto a different path. I'll talk with Dr. Rhys tomorrow and see if anything can be arranged . . . I know, Omar, but even a slight possibility is too much. All it could take is a single thought and we could be in very deep trouble indeed. Especially if they talk to anyone else! So if they do; I want to know about it immediately. Record their calls and conversations. I'll talk to you tomorrow . . ."
He snapped his cell phone closed and crossed the street. On the other side he leaned against a fence with one hand cupping his chin. He sighed deeply and shook his head. `I cannot let it happen!' he thought to himself. `Not again!'
Greg's eyes snapped open and then blinked a few times. He slowly stretched and yawned. The heavy curtains were closed over the windows, but sunlight was still sneaking in around the edges. His clock showed it was almost 9 am. He started to roll over and noticed Ken's arm around him, and he snickered. Their suite had two king sized beds in it, and last night they decided the best way to get a good night's sleep was for them to sleep in separate beds. That's what they did. . . except now Ken was in bed with Greg.
Greg turned his head to see that Ken's eyes were just starting to flutter open. He rolled over completely so he was facing Ken while keeping Ken's arm around him. Ken opened his eyes to see Greg right in front of him with a wicked grin on his face.
"What?" Ken asked sleepily.
"You're supposed to be in that bed over there!" Greg laughed. He gave Ken a quick kiss. "You horn dog! Couldn't stay away, could you?"
Ken smiled through a yawn. "Don't worry," he said as he pulled their bodies in closer. "I didn't do anything - I just slept with you, that's all."
Greg reached behind him to feel his own butt. It was dry and tight. "Okay," he said as he wrapped his arms around Ken. "Actually, I'm glad to find you here."
Ken nodded slightly. "It's been a long, long time since I slept alone," he said. "I guess I don't want to get used to it."
"Mmmm," Greg mumbled and ran his hands up and down Ken's back. "I know what you mean. Me too, and I don't either."
They made out a few minutes and then Greg picked up the phone and ordered breakfast. Both of them were making good use of room service. Had Ely been with them, they would have gotten dressed and gone out for breakfast. When Ely was with them, they didn't mind going out at all, but without him they were happy to have their meals delivered to their room.
Ken tossed the blankets aside and they both went into the bathroom to take a shower. They knew they had some time before breakfast was delivered so they both spent some of that time on their knees with the water streaming down them and gave each other a morning blow job.
They were sitting in chairs with their robes on when the knock came at the door. Ken yelled to come in and both of them were a little surprised to see their favorite bell boy-toy deliver their breakfast. Usually he worked the evening shift, and came up to their room after he got off work for some fun before he went home.
"Well, well!" Ken smiled. "What's up with this? Why the early bird today?"
"A couple of people called in sick and they asked me to work an extra shift to help out," the bellboy answered as he removed the covers from the plates and the plastic wrap from the glasses. "I can always use the money, and school hasn't started yet so I have the time." He made a point of looking both of them over critically, but with the same hint of the grin that caught Greg's attention when he checked in to the hotel. He nodded as though he approved. "Well! You both look well rested. A complete improvement over last night." Greg and Ken looked at each other and rolled their eyes. The bellboy poured both of them a cup of coffee and then picked up a third cup and looked at them questioningly. "I have a break coming now. May I?"
"Of course!" Ken said and pulled over another chair. "Have a seat, and a cup."
"Thank you!" the bellboy beamed. "I never get to actually have a chat with any of the hotel guests, and many of you seem so interesting."
Greg looked at him like he didn't believe him. "Don't tell me we're the first guests you ever got naked with!"
The bellboy shook his head, "Well, no - I have been most fortunate in that respect, but you are the first few who also talk to me."
Greg had a silent flashback to his days in the gas station. "What are you studying in school?" he asked and settled in the dining chair.
"Literature," the bellboy answered. "Middle eastern literature right now, but I may change and study the French or some of the Renaissance works from the early period. My actual major is in journalism," he shrugged and smiled, a little embarrassingly, "I am also working on a book that I hope to publish and sell."
"Sounds great to me, but doesn't it get a little expensive switching majors like that?" Ken grinned.
"My father is a dean at the university," the bellboy explained. "I study for free."
"Wow!" Greg said. "That's the way to do it allright! So what will you do when you're finally graduated?"
The bellboy shrugged. "Most likely I'll write and teach. Hopefully at the university level. I enjoy school - the entire environment. I'd like to just stay there."
"A noble goal." Ken said. "I imagine your dad feels good about it all, eh?"
Another shrug. "Well, I'm not ever too sure how he feels about anything."
The guys glanced at each other. "You mean he ignores you or something?" Greg asked.
"Oh no - not at all," the bellboy shook his head. "But he is very old fashioned about everything. Sometimes I think though, that what he says, he says out of a sense of duty more than from his heart. He'll remember saying one thing a long time ago, and so he tries harder to not contradict what he said then than to show how he really feels now."
"Sounds a little strange coming from a college professor, especially a Dean," Ken said. "The acceptance and encouragement of change should be all over the place in an academic environment I'd think. Seems like your dad should be setting the example."
The bellboy grinned, "Well he does advocate change and modernization - at school - but not at home. He believes that consistency is the key to raising kids, and that's how I was raised."
"And your mom goes along with it?" Ken asked.
"Yes, she does, too," the bellboy answered. "They are both old fashioned, but still they raised me in a European tradition, not Egyptian."
"Yeah?" Greg asked. "How come?"
"My father is British, my mother is French."
"Do they know you're gay?" Greg asked.
The bellboy stopped in mid-sip, his eyes widened looking like Greg had said something foolish. "Guys!" he almost sputtered. "We are in Egypt!"
The guys laughed. "Yes, we know that!" Greg said. "But this is almost the 22nd century!"
The bellboy only smiled. "Yes, it is - but this is still Egypt. Sex is very much a taboo subject here. Most people are Moslem, and they are very much against change. They believe in living exactly like the Prophet did in his time, even mimicking the style of dress and the long beards and such. Being gay used to be illegal. It's not any more, but it is still a subject not talked about openly. It is still certainly not something done openly at all. We wouldn't go to jail, but we would be ostracized and harassed, and Moslem law offers us no protection at all."
Greg shook his head. "There are none so blind. . . " he mumbled.
"But your folks, being European, wouldn't they handle it better?" Ken asked.
The bellboy shook his head. "In that respect they are very much old fashioned," he said. "My father has not talked to me about sex at all. He thinks that if, and until, I am ready to marry, the time is not right. Until then, sex is inappropriate for me to even think about." He leaned back after finishing his cup of coffee. "There was a time, when I was 14. I was wondering what all the fuss was about, and wanted to see what it was like being with a girl. All we did was make out a while, but she got some lipstick on my collar. I didn't notice, but my father saw it when I got home and he hit the roof! I was grounded and lectured and made to feel awful. And guys! That was about heterosexual stuff! I can't imagine what he'd do if he found out I really liked guys. Physical maiming is still permitted here, you know. He could actually kill me and get away with it. I know he would never go that far, but he could, and he does get that angry, believe me!"
The guys looked at each other and sighed. Back home, gay marriages have been the norm for decades. No one talked about it any more, they just did it. They thought about their own human childhoods and were disappointed to see that there were still parts of the world that stubbornly refused to grow up. As they looked at each other, a thought passed between them, `No feeding off this guy!'
The bellboy yawned and stood up. "Well I must get back to work," he said. "Thank you so much! This was the best break I have had in a long time."
"You come take your breaks here anytime you want!" Ken said as the bellboy yawned again. "But right now it seems you need some sleep about as much as we did last night! You shouldn't do too many double shifts in a row."
The bellboy nodded, "I know," he said. "Last night was busy, and I was already tired. Somehow it seems there are parts of last night I don't even remember."
"Time to go home!" Greg snickered. "Now you're the one who needs some rest."
After he left, the guys sat around some more and then decided to go do some shopping and some sight seeing - seeing something other than ancient ruins! They dressed and left. After they had gotten into a taxi and left the hotel, the bellboy entered the elevator and went up to the tenth floor. At their door, he glanced around him to make sure no one was watching, then inserted his master key card and slipped into their room.
Her desk was piled high with files and documents, seemingly unorganized, but the secretary wasn't the least bit frazzled. She looked up and smiled warmly as the door opened and Father Pete walked in. "Good morning, Margie!" he greeted her.
"Good morning, Father," Margie said. "You've come just in time."
Father Pete raised his eyebrows. "I have? My goodness, is something wrong?" he asked.
"No, no," Margie laughed. "He just finished the budget, and I bet he would welcome any distraction," she patted the pile of files on her desk. "And your visit will give me some time to get caught up here!" Father Pete laughed as Margie pointed to the inner door. "Go on in - you don't need to be announced."
Father Pete laughed and opened the door to Dr. Stephen Rhys' inner sanctum. If Margie's desk appeared unorganized, Dr. Rhys' looked like the aftermath of a hurricane. The files on his desk were taller than the Doctor. More piles of folders were scattered here and there on the floor, and on top of each table that offered even a little space. Some of the piles had fallen over, the folders scattered about. Packing boxes still sat around even after being delivered over two years ago.
Dr. Rhys glanced up from his desk as the door opened and his face split into a wide smile. "Ah! Father!" he rose and shook the priest's hand. "Good to see you! Please!" and he pointed to one of the two chairs at his desk - the only two surfaces not piled with papers. Father Pete sat down and stretched his legs out. "Is this a business or social visit?" Dr. Rhys asked.
"Purely social, if you have a few minutes, Stephen," Father Pete told him. "I just finished my rounds at the hospital, and thought I'd stop by on my way back to the parish."
"Well I'm glad you did," Dr. Rhys said. He picked up a sheaf of papers and tossed them to the side of his desk, as if they were dirty. "I finally finished this damnable budget! I don't mind telling you, I hate these things!"
Father Pete laughed softly. "We both depend heavily on donations. I have the same problem with my budget. Never enough, and never knowing where the next dollar or pound is coming from."
"Will you have a cup of tea with me?" Father Pete nodded, and Dr. Rhys reached for a button on his phone console.
The door opened before he could push the button and the secretary walked in pushing a small cart in front of her, loaded with a pot, cups, cream and sugar, and pastries. "Don't bother ringing, Dr. Rhys, I've anticipated you," she beamed.
"Ah, Margie!" Dr. Rhys said, "A mind reader, as always. Thank you! That's all right, I'll pour." He pointed to the budget papers. "If you don't mind ridding my desk of this trash, I'll be more than happy to see it go! You should take a break of your own, too."
"I've already taken a cup for myself," Margie said. "But I'll send these off to the Comptroller so you don't even have to smell them." She gathered up the folders, gave Father Pete a wink, and left the room.
Dr. Rhys poured both of them a cup of tea. They mixed their sugar and cream, and sat back, nibbling on some pastry. "So, how are things in the parish, Father? I'm sorry I don't get there more often - but, you know. . ." Dr. Rhys waved his arm around the room, indicating the piles of folders and files.
Father Pete laughed. "Never mind the fact that you are Anglican, Stephen, and have never been to my parish! But things go well. How about your side of the house? How is the dig going?"
"Fine! Fine!" Dr. Rhys beamed. Now they were talking about his passion. "Couldn't be better. We are finding more artifacts. Now that I'm caught up with the budget, I can finally start cataloguing them." He took a sip of his tea.
"Who do you have helping you?" Father Pete asked.
Dr. Rhys shook his head, "No one," he said. "We haven't been finding much until just very recently. Everyone has been out on the dig."
"Seems like you could corral a couple students you help you. Do them some good," Father Pete said, looking at Dr. Rhys.
"Yes, yes, that's a splendid idea!" Dr. Rhys smiled. "I have a new crop of them, you know. They'll be with me for a few months."
"I've met a couple of them. Ken and Greg. I've spent some time with them at the museum. Splendid young minds, those two."
Dr. Rhys thought for a second. "Oh yes. From the States. They're doing wonderful in the museum. Very bright. Very organized." Dr. Rhys grinned at Father Pete. "They're more than just friends, aren't they?"
Father Pete smiled. "Much more, I'd bet. I get the feeling they've been together for quite some time."
Dr. Rhys looked puzzled. "Some time?" He scratched his head. "If I remember correctly, one of them is from Colorado, and the other is from Florida. I wasn't aware they even knew each other until they came here."
Father Pete frowned. He didn't know that. They did seem to know a lot about each other. Much more than two guys would learn about each other in the few days they'd been here. Two ordinary guys anyway. "Well they certainly seem to work well together in any case," he told Dr. Rhys.
"I suppose they would be as good a choice as any," Dr. Rhys said. "I'll have Margie ring them up before the end of the day."
`That was easy!' Father Pete thought. Aloud he said, "I wouldn't mind stopping by myself now and then. See what kind of trinkets you've unearthed."
"You're always welcome," Dr. Rhys said. They talked some more, finished their tea, and Father Pete took his leave. He left the building, pulled out his cell phone again and pushed a speed dial button. . . "Hello, Omar? It's me. . . Oh? You have already? But I thought it wouldn't be safe to get into their room until tomorrow when they're working. . . I see. Good thought. You're sure they didn't see you? . . . Good, good. Listen, another problem may be solved. They will be transferred tomorrow. Hopefully they'll no longer be working in the museum. Dr. Rhys is going to have them help him with the cataloguing, so we only need to keep an ear out for what they say in their room. Hopefully that will be the end of it, and we can leave them alone. . . I doubt it, Omar. Dr. Rhys loves working with his finds almost as much as he loves the digging itself. He'll keep them very busy. They won't have time to interfere with us. I hope not anyway, it would be a shame to sacrifice such valuable young minds."
"Okay, what the hell is this?" Ken held up a piece of what looked like pottery; broken, but still identifiable as pottery. Greg looked as puzzled as Ken.
Dr. Rhys adjusted his glasses and leaned over from his stool to take a closer look. "That's most likely part of a serving utensil, I think," he said. "Or a platter maybe. It's too bad that most of the artifacts we find are broken, but that's the way of it," he told the guys.
They were in a warehouse filled with what a casual look would dismiss as junk. But the items were all from the dig, and some of them were valuable. Exactly how valuable would be determined later. Their job, starting today, was to catalog and separate the items by piece, by area of the dig they were recovered from, by assumed use, by size, by broken from intact, and by any other means that distinguished them from the other items. It was tedious work, but better than working at the dig itself. The warehouse wasn't air conditioned and the guys were still sweating, but they were certainly cooler there than they would be if they were in the direct sun outside. The work was somewhat absorbing also, and the guys didn't realize how long they were at it. The piece Ken was holding was the last piece in the group they had worked on that day. Dr. Rhys was pleased with the progress. The guys had picked up the routine very quickly (as was their nature, but Dr. Rhys had no idea), and they finished well before the time allotted. In fact, Dr. Rhys was so pleased that he gave the guys the next day off, as other artifacts would take a day's time to transport from the site to the warehouse anyway, and that work was done by local help.
The guys left the somewhat dark warehouse, and were surprised to find it dark outside. They'd literally worked the day away.
"I just realized," Greg told Ken, "I'm starving!"
"You know it," Ken replied. "That wasn't hard work, but I'm tired, too."
"Yeah, all that squinting at the small pieces and trying to figure out what they were and what they were used for. It's the same as it was in the classroom. It's called `mental exhaustion.'"
They waited a few minutes for a taxi and went back to their hotel. In their room they ordered dinner, and sat down to wait. "What do you want to do tomorrow?" Ken asked.
"If we go sightseeing again, how about we rent a car?" Greg replied. "I'm tired of waiting for taxis, and the bus system sucks."
"Sounds good," Ken nodded. "But you know what? I know it's a day off and all, but that thing at the museum really bugs me. I'd like to go back. I still can't figure out why we'd both miss the same thing at the same time. I don't think it was just us needing to feed. It's just too exact to be coincidence."
"What do you think it is?"
Ken shrugged. "I have no idea, but I won't get it out of my head until I go back and check around some more. We may not find anything, but we haven't been there yet when we had nothing else to do, so this time we can concentrate better."
As they sat down to their dinner in their room, Father Pete's phone rang in his office across town. He was in his office and answered.
"They're going back!" the voice told him.
"To the museum?" he asked.
"Yes. They have the day off tomorrow and they're going back to look at those documents again. It doesn't look like they're going to give up."
"You're sure of this?"
"Absolutely. It's what they talked about in their room. The microphones picked it up very clearly. I have it on tape, too."
"Have they spoken to anyone else?"
"No. Not from their room anyway. They haven't called anyone from their phone, but I can't bug their cell phones. I don't know if they've used those, but I know they haven`t used the phone in their room."
Father Pete sighed and frowned. "We really can't take that chance."
"It still may only be curiosity. Maybe you can think of something to tell them that will get them off the track."
"Maybe so, Omar, but somehow I doubt it. Not only are they typical students and therefore trained to keep looking, but they're very bright, and I'm sure they won't take anything at face value. I'll try to think of something, but in the meantime you'd better make some plans. You'll need to be ready to act almost on a moment's notice."
A sigh came through the phone. "That's not the only thing. They talked about needing to feed, so it's official. They're one of us. I'll think of something also if you wish, but I hope you can lead them astray. After all, I'd feel like I'm no different than Abel going after Cain."
"I know, Omar. I feel the same way, but we must weigh the individual against the goal, and the goal is so much more important. We'll hope for the best. Maybe they'll get so busy with the cataloging they'll forget about the museum, but you know as well as I do that graduate students aren't trained that way."
"I know. If need be, it will be as you say." And the connection was broken.
The next morning the guys walked up to the heavy steel door of the museum's vaults just as one of the attendants was coming out. He held the door open for the guys as they nodded to him and entered. They were carrying their packs with their notes in them. The work stations were in the middle of the room, surrounded by shelves and cases. They headed for the tables of the work stations, but just before they rounded the last row of shelves, Ken suddenly threw his arm across Greg's chest and stopped him. He clamped a hand over Greg's mouth before Greg could say anything and held his finger up to his lips, shushing Greg. He pointed through a break in the shelves.
Greg peeked through the small opening between the shelves, and saw Father Pete sitting at one of the tables. He glanced at Ken and shrugged his shoulders. It wasn't unusual to him to find Father Pete in the vaults. Ken leaned in close and whispered in Greg's ear. "Look what he's doing!"
Greg looked again. Father Pete was writing on a sheet of paper. Greg couldn't see what he was writing. Actually, he could only see the top of Father Pete's pen moving around slightly. At least it looked like a pen. And at least it looked like he was actually writing. It was tough to tell. The pen wasn't moving back and forth like it should if he was writing. But he still didn't see anything really unusual. Ken's face pressed against Greg's as he tried to also see through the small opening.
As they watched, Father Pete picked up one of the sheets of glass used to encase the ancient documents. He set it on top of what he was writing on, reached into his pocket, pulled out a small screwdriver, and began screwing the glass cases together. Greg looked wide eyed at Ken. What the hell was Father Pete doing? Tampering with the documents was a felony! They'd been told how strict the rules were about leaving the glass cases alone.
When Father Pete put the case he was working on aside, Ken nudged Greg and beckoned him to follow, then walked around the shelves. He cleared his throat loudly so Father Pete would hear. They walked into the area of the work stations.
"Oh, hey Father!" Ken said, acting surprised to see him. Greg was a little confused, but followed suit and greeted Father Pete as if he too, was surprised.
Father Pete's eyes widened only for a fraction of a second, then he regained his composure. "Well, good morning, guys!" he smiled. "What brings you two into this hole in the ground so early?" He scooted aside and made room for the guys to sit down.
They dumped their packs on the table. "Just idle curiosity," Ken said. "We want to check out some things and finish some other things. We were transferred yesterday to cataloging items from the dig." Greg stayed silent as he didn't know what Ken was thinking.
"Indeed?" Father Pete feigned surprise. "Interesting work, depending on the quality of the artifacts you have to work with. How did it go?"
"I think just being the first day on something new was more interesting than the artifacts themselves. Most of them were broken, and all we saw were pieces," Ken told him.
Father Pete nodded. "Sounds familiar. But that's how it goes in this business you know."
"I know," Greg said. "Dr. Rhys warned us about the ratio of broken pieces to intact items. I think all day long we only had one item that was intact, and that was only a bowl!"
Father Pete grinned. "Yes, but you know, you just never know when something as simple as that could be the key to something even bigger. You have to pay attention to every detail of every piece. It takes a lot of concentration, but I'm sure you already know that."
"In theory, yes," Ken said. "But it looks like practice is going to be more tedious than we were told!" He glanced at the materials strewn on the table in front of Father Pete. "What are you working on?" he asked.
Father Pete swept a hand over the table. "Nothing earth shaking," he said. "I always find my parishioners love it when I can give a sermon and then show them something that actually came from the period I'm talking about. I'm just looking for more examples of interesting bits of the information I give them." He looked around the room. "Actually, I was just about to call for the attendant to put these things away. I'm due to visit some of my parishioners at the hospital."
`No you weren't!' Ken thought. Out loud he said, "Well, now we can return a favor to you, Father. You go on and we'll have the attendant put them away for you."
"Oh, thank you, but there's no need to go to that trouble," Father Pete smiled. "I can wait a few more minutes." He seemed at ease, but his eyes darted around a bit, as if he was hoping an attendant would appear immediately.
Greg shook his head. "He left just as we were coming in. No telling how long he'll be gone. It's no trouble at all, Father, we just got here, and we'll be here quite a while. We'd be glad to sign them back in for you."
"Well if you're sure," Father Pete said, "I would appreciate it. I hate to run late with my hospital visits. Sometimes I get to their room, and they're out getting one kind of test or another, and I have to wait for them. Those visits can take much longer than I anticipate." He got up from his chair, and with a final glance at the documents he had spread out, he said goodbye to the guys and, somewhat reluctantly, Ken thought, left the vault.
The guys waited until they heard the door of the vault close. Ken walked over and peeked around the shelves, making sure Father Pete actually left. "Ok, he's gone!"
They rushed back to the table. Ken grabbed the document Father Pete was working on and the guys sat down to look it over. At first it seemed nothing was unusual. The document was from the period before the Roman takeover of Egypt: about a thousand years before. The writing was in hieroglyphics again, and very small. Most of the ink was faded. Very little of the document could be translated easily.
"There!" Greg pointed to a figure near the bottom of the sheet. Ken looked. "It's the same figure we saw the other day. The same one!"
"You're sure?" Ken asked. He picked up the sheet and turned it some to look at it better in the light.
"Yeah!" Greg said. He rummaged through his pack and pulled out a notebook, flipped through some pages and showed Ken. "Here. I drew the figure from the other sheet. They're the same. See?"
Ken frowned. They were the same, but that still didn't prove anything. Ken had a thought and rummaged through his own pack. He pulled out a pocket knife and flipped out a tiny blade that ended in a flat head screwdriver. He started unscrewing the sheets of glass.
"Damn!" Greg said. "We'll get in trouble, Ken!" Neither of the guys were too worried about anyone coming in. They knew they could make eye contact and cause the person to forget they'd ever seen anyone, but they hadn't put that strategy into practice often enough to feel comfortable with it yet. They'd rather avoid that kind of confrontation. Besides, they didn't know how they would deal with it if several people came in. Even if they were able to make everyone forget, there was still the possibility of the museum finding evidence of their tampering and causing trouble for them before they knew what was happening. It was worth it to them to do anything to minimize the risk.
"Just watch the door. If too many people come in we'll have to hide this and be stuck here until they leave. It won't take long. I just want to see one thing." He finished separating the glass and Greg kept his eyes on the door. If anyone did come in, they'd have just enough time to cover the sheet with junk.
Ken separated the glass and sat the top one aside. He reached out and turned on a study lamp on the table and aimed its neck so the light shone directly on the paper. He reached out with a finger and pressed it onto the figure. He turned his finger over and held it up to the light, leaned in and looked close. Then he showed his finger to Greg. It was small, almost unnoticeable, but it was there. A tiny black mark on Ken's finger tip. Both guys jaws' dropped open.
"Ain't that some shit!" Ken said, in awe. "This damn thing is fresh! That's what Father Pete was doing! He was drawing this figure on here just before we came in!"
Greg let out a "Whoooo!" He sat down and looked directly at Ken. "That son of a bitch is tampering with this stuff! He's altering it."
Greg glanced back at the door. "Never mind for now. Put that back together and let's get out of here!"
Ken hurriedly reassembled the glass and called for the attendants to put everything away. They rushed out of the vaults and went back upstairs to the museum proper. They didn't talk to each other but walked through the lobby and outside to grab a taxi. Just inside the entrance was the museum's gift shop. From behind a row of souvenirs, Father Pete watched them leave, frowning. He shook his head, worried about what it was that satisfied the guys' "idle curiosity" so quickly.
The taxi had a partition between the front and back seats, so the guys could talk without the driver overhearing. "So what's he up to?" Ken asked while looking straight ahead.
"No idea," Greg said. "But what ever it is, it can't be good. And why the hell can't we read him, or why doesn't he ask us who we are?"
"Yeah," Ken said. "Alex and Ely both said it's unusual. The more I see him, the more suspicious I am."
"So what do we do about it?"
Ken shrugged. "If we told anyone from the museum it would only be our word against his. I think even if we planted thoughts in anyone's head, he'd just erase them. It would be like a game of Tic Tac Toe, or something."
"Should we just ask him?"
Ken shook his head. "I don't think so. Not yet, anyway. We really don't know that much about him. Asking him outright might be asking for trouble."
"You're right," Greg said. "How would we go about finding out more about him? He claims to be a priest, but he's most likely one of us masquerading as a priest. I'd like to know why he's doing that as much as I'd like to know why he's tampering with those documents."
"I'm not so worried about him pretending to be a priest," Ken said. "After all, we're pretending to be graduate students. But how many other documents has he tampered with? That one had nothing to do with the first one we saw. With only two, there's no kind of pattern."
"Maybe we could do some more research," Greg said. "We know what the figure looks like. We could just go through more documents and look for it."
"We could," Ken told him, "but how many documents do they have in all? It would take us forever to go through all of them. We don't have that much time."
"Let's go back to our room," Greg said. "I'll get on my laptop and do some looking around. See if that figure has a meaning somewhere. If we know how others interpreted it, we'd know where to look."
"Okay," Ken answered. "Meantime, we should talk to Alex and Ely."
"Good idea," Greg said. He patted his pockets. "Damn, I left my cell phone in the room."
Ken pulled his phone out of his pocket. He went to punch in the speed dial, but then stopped and rolled his eyes. "Shit! I didn't plug it in last night. I got no battery power."
"No problem," Greg said. "We're almost at the hotel. We can use the phone in our room."
Alex had fallen asleep in the passenger seat leaving Ely to drive through the countryside. Ely didn't really like driving long distances. Freeways, to him, were the worst, and he avoided them when he could. He sighed to himself at the thought of his apprehension of driving. He preferred the faster (and to him, safer), methods of travel on jets and trains. He grew up in a time when the horse was the best means of transportation. He'd never taken to the automobile, and didn't get one of his own until the 1960's when seatbelts had become mandatory. He'd always depended on someone else to get him where he wanted to go, and had only been driving for 120 years or so. Almost no time at all compared to the total time he'd spent traveling the world.
Even more exasperating to him was the idea of still being apprehensive about driving when in this day and age, approaching the 22nd century, no one had to actually take hold of a wheel, press foot pedals, and drive anymore. Technology with cars had long ago learned to make use of a combination of sonar and radar, and now the cars actually drove themselves. The "driver" only had to enter a set of coordinates into the car's computer. These days, a friend's global position on the planet was as important to know as his address. Everyone now had a street address, a home and cell phone, email address, and map coordinates to their house, and to wherever they happened to be at the moment. A quick check of their cell phones told them the coordinates of where they were standing at any given moment.
Back in London, Alex and Ely had rented a car, entered the coordinates of where in Wales they wanted to go, selected the route (secondary roads, as was Ely's habit), and then sat back to enjoy the ride. The car's systems and computer kept track of where they were, the other cars in the area, the exits and turns, the road and weather conditions, and took over the job of maneuvering the car. The car essentially watched itself and all the conditions around it. Its sonar and radar systems "saw" the road ahead, the other cars around them on the road, measured their speed, and fit itself into traffic. Freeways had no posted speed limits as they were no longer needed. The cars themselves adjusted their own speed to match the traffic around them, slowed themselves down in inclement weather, and sped back up again when conditions allowed. Traffic moved smoother than ever before, and accidents were almost unheard of anymore. The driver could tell the car to select the fastest route if he was in a hurry, or a more leisurely route if he wanted to enjoy the scenery along the way.
Today the guys were in no particular hurry, so they were driving the slower secondary roads from London to Wales so they could visit the area where Ely had grown up. He groaned when he heard his cell phone start chirping in his pocket, as he hated distractions when he was at the "wheel," and still hated them even though he knew they presented no real danger. He figured it was Greg calling however, and never thought of Greg as a distraction. He glanced at his screen and then pushed a button that told the car to pull off the road.
"You've found the lost continent of Atlantis, have you?" Ely said with a laugh. Alex stirred at the sound of Ely's voice. The car rolled to a stop and put itself into park.
"No, but babe, I think we've found something we're having trouble handling."
"Really, and what is that?"
"Well, this priest, Father Pete. He's doing something."
"What is he doing?"
"I don't know why, but he's tampering with the documents in the museum. He's altering them."
"Yeah, he's adding a certain figure into them. We haven't figured out the meaning of the figure yet, but tampering with those documents is supposed to be simply not done. It's also against the law. We don't know what to do about it."
Ely thought about it a second. "Well, ordinarily I would suggest you tell the authorities there. But if he's one of us, it would seem his purpose would go beyond a human investigator's first thought."
"Yeah, and that worries us, too. We caught him red handed in the museum today. I don't think he knows we saw him, but he definitely seemed nervous that we were there."
Alex was wide awake now. He and Ely made eye contact so Alex would know both sides of the conversation.
"Where are you now, my love?"
"We're in our room at the hotel. Ken's on his lap top looking for some history on the figure he's drawing on those documents. Maybe if we can figure out its translation, we'll have an idea what he's up to. But it's nothing we've seen before, so it might take some research and some time."
Alex sent a thought to Ely. Ely nodded and asked Greg, "I suppose you still can't read him, can you?"
"No, we can't. And that's bothering us more, too. He can't read us either, but he hasn't said anything about it. Neither have we, but we're sure he's only pretending to be a priest. We're thinking we're only scratching the surface of something here."
Alex was staring into Ely's eyes. Along with the thoughts he was sending Ely, he nodded. Ely told Greg, "We'd like to come down. Do you want us to come?"
There was silence for a moment on the phone. "Yeah, we do."
Alex broke eye contact with Ely and turned to the console in the car. He pushed buttons, telling the computer to look for the nearest international airport and to check the flight schedules to Cairo. Ely told Greg they'd be down as soon as they could. He'd let them know the flight number as soon as they got a reservation. Alex took the phone so he could talk to Ken. It turned out the nearest international airport was back in London, and they'd already driven away from London for a couple of hours. Ely programmed the car to head for the nearest freeway; his apprehension about them forgotten.
On the way back to the city, Ely pushed more buttons on his cell phone. Alex leaned over to look at what Ely was doing. "I'm looking up a friend of mine," Ely told him. "I think he may be able to help us out."
"Who?" Alex asked.
"His name is David," Ely answered. "He completed the change in the mid 1800's. He actually had a hand in helping Bram write his book."
"Really?" Alex asked. "How so?"
"Editing, mainly, from what I understand," Ely said. "Nothing on the creative side, so his name isn't on the book anywhere. But he's always been interested in books, mystery novels, spy novels, things like that. He was so interested that in the late 1960's and early 1970's he actually put himself through the training to become a real life, official spy."
"No kidding?" Alex nodded, impressed. "I guess he could be of some use then. Where did he train?"
"It was in Israel," Ely said. "With the Mossad."
Ely found the number he was looking for and made the call. "David! How are you? This is Ely."
"Ely, my goodness, it's been a century! How are you doing?"
"Fine, fine. Yes, it's been much too long. Where are you living these days? Are you still with Enzo?"
"Still going strong. Still in Paris. We had our anniversary just last month. 156 years!"
"Well good for you! Congratulations! Give him my love."
"Thank you, I will. How about you? I heard you are attached again."
"Oh yes! I certainly am. Couldn't be happier!" Ely glanced to his side and saw no reaction from Alex.
"Are you still in the States? Florida, right?"
"Still live there, but right now I'm in England with a friend. David, we could use your help with something. We need your expertise."
"You got it. What's up?"
Ely quickly told David about Greg and Ken, what they were doing in Egypt, and about what was going on with Father Pete.
"Are you serious? What have they gotten themselves into down there?"
"I have no idea, David. I wouldn't be this concerned except for the fact that this Father Pete person is so obviously one of us. And he's being too secretive about it all. My friend, Alex, and I are very nervous about them."
"Are you going to join them in Cairo?"
"We are, yes. Right now we're in a car, heading back to London. We'll fly to Cairo from there. We'll make some reservations as soon as you and I finish talking."
"No, no! Don't do that!"
"Don't go to Cairo? Why not?
"No, I mean, don't make reservations just yet. Look, Ely, if you need to do this my way, and it sounds like you do, then you need to go the whole route and do it right. You don't want anyone, especially not this priest person to know what you're planning."
"Alright, David. What should we do?"
"Go on to London. Go to the airport and pick a flight there, but don't buy your tickets until the last possible minute. When I was trained in Israel, we were taught to pay cash for everything so as not to leave a paper trail, but no one uses cash anymore, so the best you can do is to do everything at the last minute."
"And the next time you call Greg, don't call him on his phone in his hotel. We have to assume it's tapped."
"We really need to go that far?"
"Yes, we do. Until we know what we're dealing with, we need to work on the assumption that whoever this priest is, he's dangerous and he's an expert. We need to put ourselves in his place. If we were working on something that we wanted to keep a secret even from ourselves, what precautions would we take? So we need to avoid anything we can think to avoid. So call Greg on his cell phone, but don't talk to him in his room even. Assume the room is bugged. The next time you call him, tell him not to say a word, but to walk out of his room, even go outside the hotel to talk. That's the safest way."
"I have to tell you, David, this is making me nervous." Alex and Ely were back in eye contact, and Alex knew the conversation. He nodded vigorously.
"I'm sure it does, Ely. But try to understand. This is all what we call, `tradecraft.' I know it sounds mysterious. It's very tedious, very detailed, and somewhat time consuming. But it is after all, a tried and true method. If it's done right, it works. Until we know what's going on we really do need to assume the worst, and work based on that assumption. Hopefully we'll find out that there's nothing to worry about, but until we do it's safer to work like we're in the gravest danger."
"Say, David...do you think you could...I mean, would you have the time..."
"Say no more, Ely. Enzo is already packing my bag. I'll go to the airport, and like you must do, I'll buy my ticket at the last minute. I'll call you right before I board the plane and let you know when I'll be there. You do the same when you let Greg know of your arrival. Call him right before you board, but give him time to go outside before you talk to him."
"You'll have to tell me how I can thank you, David."
"Just do exactly what I tell you; no matter how silly it seems. Hopefully it'll all be over with quickly and we can have a nice visit. Oh, and another thing, do you remember the last time we got together? In Paris, in the 1980's?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Do you remember we wanted to surprise some others, so we changed our appearance to sneak up on them?"
"That's what I'll look like when I get to Cairo. You and Greg and your friends do the same. That's the best disguise we have, so make use of it. When we get to Cairo, no one will recognize us even if anyone is looking for us. Like I said, we have to assume this priest is an expert, and may have someone watching at the airport."
"All right, David. We'll do that."
"Good. By the way. When you talked to Greg, where was he?"
"In his room at the hotel."
"Was he calling on his cell phone?"
"No, from the phone in his room."
"Ouch! It may be too late if it's tapped. But what's done is done. We'll take it from there. All the more reason to change our appearances at the airport."
"We're on the freeway now, David. It looks like we'll save some time for sure. We should be back in London in a little under an hour and a half or so."
"Good. Use the time to call Greg back. Have him go outside and tell him our plans. But make sure he goes back to the room and either takes his friend outside to tell him, or just tell him mentally. In fact, since there is plenty of time, they should just leave that hotel and go to another one, as different guys with different names. They can make eye contact with the receptionist and tell him what names to see on their passports. It shouldn't be a problem, but don't let him tell you which hotel until we actually get there."
Ely was sounding nervous now. "I'll...I'll do that straight away, David."
David caught the edge in Ely's voice. "Just take it one step at a time, Ely. I've done this many times before. I know it's tough for you to think of it as a game, what with Greg all the way in Cairo; him and his friend there by themselves. But try to think of it as a game with rules. Follow the rules, and we'll win the game. We'll all feel much better once we get together in Cairo."
"If you say so, David. That's why I called on you. I'll talk to you soon."
"I'll let you know when I'll be there as soon as I can. As you Brits always say, chin up old man!"
At the same time, another phone conversation was taking place in Cairo.
"Yes, Omar, what is it?"
"They're on to you alright! They saw you in the museum this morning working on one of the documents."
Father Pete stiffened. "Yes, I didn't expect them to show up at the museum that early. I was afraid they might have seen something." He frowned and shook his head.
"That's not all. They used the phone in their room. They're not a couple - just buddies. They talked to their boyfriends and told them everything." A sigh came through the phone. "Their boyfriends are coming to Cairo."
Father Pete grimaced. "Well, that settles it then. Now there's four of them to take out."
"I'm afraid so. I hate to, but I don't see any other way."
"Me too, Omar. I was so hoping to avoid this, but it's gone too far. They are us, you know, and they worked very quickly. Where are their boyfriends now?"
"Near London. They're driving somewhere, and they're a couple hours away from the city and the airport."
"Maybe you can take them at the airport. You have plenty of time to get there and get yourself situated."
"I don't think so. Doing that would be underestimating them, I think. I'm sure they are planning on changing their appearance."
Father Pete thought a second. "It will be several hours at least before they can get here. I wish planes flew slower like they did in the old days, but the flight will only take a couple of hours at the most. You'll have to go on and take care of Greg and Ken as soon as possible. Now, even, if you can."
"I think I can. It will be done at least within the next couple of hours."
Greg's cell phone rang a few times before he found where he'd left it. He smiled when he glanced at the screen and flipped the phone open. "Hey, babe! You got your reservation?" Ken looked up from the laptop expectantly. "Do what?...what for?" Greg looked at Ken and dramatically shrugged his shoulders. He put a finger up to his mouth to tell Ken to be quiet. "Well, okay, babe. How far?" He grabbed a pen and scribbled the words, "START PACKING" on a pad of paper and showed it to Ken. Ken was confused, but said nothing. Greg started to speak to Ely again and then stopped. Ken could tell that Ely had broken the connection. He looked at Greg. They made eye contact and Greg silently passed the details of the short conversation telling Greg to go outside and for him and Ken not to say a word to each other. Not out loud anyway.
Greg scratched his head, and shrugged his shoulders again and headed out of the room. At the door he held up a finger to tell Ken to wait and went out the door. Ken sat still for several seconds, looking after Greg. He slowly shut down his lap top and closed it, glancing up at the door. He even walked to the door and looked out in the hallway when he heard the elevator doors open and close. Greg wasn't there. Obviously he'd gone downstairs. Ken was moving slowly, confused, but took out a suitcase and started putting clothes in it.
As he worked, the bellboy appeared at the open door. He saw Ken filling a suitcase and knocked on the door frame. "You're leaving?" he asked, obviously dissapointed.
Ken crossed the room and reached out to him. He was trying to think fast. "Yeah, I'm afraid so. Um..." He hugged the bellboy to buy a few more seconds to think of an excuse. "Well, um, we're working in the warehouse now, you know, and um, it's way on the other side of the dig." Good, he had his thought. "It's so far away from here you know. We just figured it would be a time saver if we stayed someplace on the other side of town, closer to the warehouse." He kissed the bellboy quickly. "But when we get our room and get unpacked, we'll let you know where it is. You come see us any time you want. You're always welcome, you know that."
The bellboy looked down, but nodded. "That's very nice of you. I'll do that."
"Are you working now?" Ken asked. It was early evening. The sun had gone down and streetlights were on. It was the usual time for his shift.
"Yes, but I have a break for a meal. I'm not hungry," he said and smiled. He reached out to cup Ken's crotch. "I was hoping for a different kind of meal if you have some time."
Ken wasn't horny at all at the moment, but didn't want to make anyone suspicious of anything, at least not until Greg came back and told him what the hell was going on. The bellboy had pulled them together anyway, and Ken felt his hard on poking at his own cock through his pants. He thought it best to go with things, and he liked the bellboy anyway and didn't want him to think that he and Greg had lost interest in him. He reached out and closed the door to the room. His hand went for the bellboy's pants and then they were naked on the bed, locked in an embrace.
Greg was gone for a while. The bellboy was on his back with his legs wrapped around Ken as Ken drove his cock up the bellboy's tight butt. They were both sweating as they shot their loads simultaneously; Ken's up his butt, and the bellboy's between both of them. Ken kept his cock in the bellboy and laid on top of him and kissed him. They made out a bit and the bellboy turned his head so Ken could lick his ear. He put his hand behind Ken's head to hold him there and turned his head back and forth, enjoying Ken's tongue.
Ken noticed that the bellboy seemed to be keeping his mouth damn close to his neck. He murmured, "Better be careful or I'll leave you with a hickey." He didn't want to be the cause of the bellboy getting into any trouble with his dad by leaving a mark of any kind.
The bellboy sighed and murmured back, "You're moving out anyway. What's wrong with a little hickey between friends?"
Ken thought that was an odd remark, given the bellboy's history with his ultra conservative dad. Then he had a sudden flash back to his days with his foster brothers when he was still human. They had lived and grown up on the "mean streets" after all, and his foster brothers taught him some ways to take care of himself. Like when coming home at night, to walk in the middle of the street for his own protection, as he never knew who might be lurking in the shadows, drunk or high, and ready to strike with any kind of weapon and steal his money, or just to have some fun doing some gay bashing. Ken had learned to develop a "sense" to warn him of danger and it had stayed with him after he completed the change. It was this sense that caused an alarm to start ringing in his head. He cupped the bellboy's face and looked deep in his eyes and saw . . . absolutely nothing!
The mental alarm turned into a mental scream, and Ken jumped off the bellboy. "Who the fuck are you?" he demanded. "Who are you, really?" He was standing at the side of the bed, all his muscles tense and standing out. The bellboy looked confused and slowly got off the bed. "What...what do you mean? You know who I am," he said feebly.
"Bullshit!" Ken yelled. "You're one of us dammit. I know that! What the fuck is going on here?" His fists were clenched, and he looked like he was going to spring any second, but the bellboy beat him to it. He had looked fearful to Ken, but he suddenly leaped toward the door of the room. Ken chased after him, but the bellboy's leg became a blur as it swung up and his foot caught Ken in his chest, knocking him backward onto the floor. Of course, Ken wasn't hurt at all, and didn't feel any pain, but he sat on the floor stunned a second as he realized then that the bellboy had tried to get him to feed, knowing that the first taste of his blood would send Ken on up to the heavens. In other words, take him out. In that second, the bellboy wrenched the door open and ran from the room.
Ken got to the door and saw the naked bellboy race down the hall. Ken forgot he was naked too, and raced after the bellboy, or whoever he was. `Aww fuck!' he thought as he watched the bellboy reach the huge window at the end of the hallway, and smoothly, without any hesitation, threw his whole body into it, breaking it, and jumped out. Ken reached the window and looked out. Ten stories below him, he saw the bellboy somewhat slowly push himself off the sidewalk below and run off. Ken remembered that no matter what injuries they sustained, they only had to change themselves back into themselves, and the injuries would be gone. He took some deep breaths while he gingerly knocked some blood stained pieces of glass out of the frame and out of his way.
The elevator door opened, and Greg had just enough time to scream as he entered the hallway and saw Ken's naked body sail out the window and vanish.
Greg reached the window in time to see Ken run into the wooded area on the other side of the street. He looked around and saw no one, so figured that no one had seen Ken. His mind was racing, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Why would Ken do such a thing? Jump out of a ten story window!? Naked!? What the hell had happened? He too, knew that the jump itself was no big deal for them. Whatever happened to Ken's body when he hit the sidewalk was not a concern. During the first couple of years after completing the change, they'd actually practiced some. They had broken their own arms and legs on purpose; cut themselves in several places, and repaired themselves many times until they got used to it and could do it almost without thinking about it, and without getting grossed out at the appearance or the thought of it. Greg knew the fastest way to catch up to Ken was to do the same thing he did.
He was confused, scared, and his whole body was trembling, but he did think to pull his shirt off and wrap his cell phone in it to cushion it so he could at least keep a line of communication to Ely intact. He climbed up onto the ledge of the window and looked down. Suddenly his fear increased until he had to hold tightly to the window to keep from falling.
Even from ten stories up, Greg could see that on the sidewalk below was a large dark spot, and he knew it was blood. As he looked, he saw a second spot about the same size several feet away. He knew that whatever else had happened, one of those spots of blood was Ken's. If he jumped and landed on Ken's blood, his own body would be cut open, his own blood spilling out. According to the training Alex and Ely had given them, the way to take each other out was to make them ingest the blood of each other. But the blood didn't have to be swallowed. It only needed to be mixed, the same way Ely had mixed their blood to initiate the change. He knew that if he landed on the same spot Ken did, his own blood would mix with Ken's and he would be gone. He would need to make sure he landed well away from the two spots on the sidewalk below.
He almost didn't do it. He could have simply called Ely to tell him what had happened. Or he could have taken the elevator back downstairs and run around the building to start chasing Ken. But that would take time. Too much time. And it was Ken, after all. Greg's mind was reeling as he ran to the opposite end of the long hallway. He hoped no one would walk around the corner outside and see him. At the end of the hallway he turned and looked at the open window, which now seemed to be so far away. He pumped several breaths into his chest. He put his arms up to his head. He thought to jump rather than dive through the window. He figured he had to protect his head - to protect his brain - so he could use his mind to repair himself.
He took off running down the hallway. The window loomed closer and closer. He was sprinting as fast as he could. He yelled as his feet left the floor and his body sailed through the open window. He only looked down long enough to see that he had indeed jumped far enough and would land well away from the other spots of blood, and then slammed his eyes closed and prayed.
As a boy he'd jumped off cliffs into a lake, and knew the feel of the wind pushing against him with the feeling of near weightlessness. When he hit the concrete feet first, he thought it almost felt like splashing in some water. But he didn't splash. He opened his eyes and looked at his body and saw that instead of splashing, he'd splattered. His own blood was now forming its own dark spot on the edge of the street. His legs were smashed, twisted and bleeding. He could tell he'd broken his spine, maybe even his neck. But he didn't hurt his head. He was thinking clearly. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He didn't feel his bones knit themselves; didn't feel his skin seal itself off. He didn't feel anything at all, which was weird, but was glad he didn't feel pain. He stood up slowly, as though to make sure his body was back together correctly. He quickly unwrapped his phone from his shirt and saw that it was working.
Then he remembered, and sprinted across the street into the wooded park, calling out Ken's name over and over again while running through the park. There was no answer. He ran straight through the park to the other side, yelling all the way. He stopped and stayed still and quiet, listening. Their senses as well as their emotions and sex drives were heightened since completing the change, but still he heard nothing. Not the sound of Ken's voice. Not even the sound of running feet. He figured he was only a couple of minutes behind Ken at the most, and thought he should at least hear footfalls, leaves rustling, branches snapping - something! But all was quiet.
Greg stood still and looked around, tears streaming down his face. He clamped his hands up to his face and, sobbing, sank to his knees on the ground. Where the hell was Ken? How could he have vanished so quickly and so completely? What the hell was going on? Why couldn't Ely be here?
At that moment Alex was thoughtfully staring out the window of the car at nothing. He paid no attention to the scenery passing by. He was startled as Ely suddenly sat up straight, almost choking. "What's the matter?" he asked.
Ely had gone pale. He looked wide eyed at Alex. "It's Greg!" he gasped. "Something's wrong. Terribly wrong!"
Alex thought a second and then shrugged slightly. "I don't feel Ken at all," he said. "They are together, aren't they?"
"As far as I know," Ely said and pulled out his phone. "We'll know soon enough." His own hands shook as he pushed the speed dial button.
Back in Cairo, Greg remembered some of his training, and forgot some of it. He'd forgotten that he and Ely, and Ken and Alex for that matter, had a close intimate attachment to each other. Their mental powers allowed them to communicate with thought - telepathy - but only as long as they were face to face. They had to make eye contact to utilize that power. But over distances, if one of them were in danger, real or perceived, their attachment to each other would allow the other to pick up on that fear, as long as they were thinking of each other at the same time, as Ely had done when Greg wished he was with him. As Ely and Alex had told Greg and Ken many times, they are not perfect, and did have some limitations.
Greg jumped when his cell phone rang and almost dropped it. His hands were also shaky as he flipped it open. "Ely!" he almost cried.
"My love - what has happened?" Ely asked, his voice straining. Greg started talking. Alex was staring hard at Ely, their minds connected, once again allowing him to "hear" both sides of the conversation. Greg stumbled over his words, mixing them up, hurrying through them, sobbing.
"Greg! Greg! Calm down - you're babbling! . . . Who was he chasing? . . . When? . . You saw him get up and run away?. . . So he is allright?. . . Where is he now?"
"I don't know, Ely! He's gone! He's just gone! I don't know where he is!"
It took some time, but Ely managed to calm Greg down some. Greg was still in the park, walking quickly around it, still hoping to find Ken while he talked to Ely. Ely told Greg to wait there, that he was going to call David back, and that they would do whatever David said to do. They both reluctantly broke the connection on their phones. Greg sat down, pulled his shirt back on, and waited. Ely dialed David's number.
"I was just about to call you." David said into his phone. "I'm at the airport now. I'll be boarding soon. I'll be in Cairo in a little less than an hour and a half."
Ely quickly told David what happened with Greg and Ken in Cairo.
David grimaced. "I was hoping we could all get there first, before anything else at all could happen," he said. "Where is Greg right now?"
"Still in the park across the street from his hotel," Ely answered. "David, I am very frightened." He glanced over at Alex, who sat still, leaned back against the seat with his eyes closed. "Alex is concentrating."
"I understand, Ely," David said. "I don't blame you at all. But do you understand that as much as we possibly can, we need to keep cool heads about us? Especially since we aren't there with Greg, and can't actually do anything until we get there?"
"Yes, I understand, David. But it doesn't make this any easier. Greg and Ken are so very young. Ken isn't even 70 years old yet, and Greg is only 101. They have almost no experience at all. And now this!"
"We will see them through, Ely. We must concentrate and focus. The first step is to get there. How far are you from London yet?"
Ely glanced out the windows into the night. "We're just entering the outskirts," he told David. "We should be at the airport in about a half hour or so. There's a flight to Cairo in about 45 minutes. We'll be cutting it close, but with any luck we should make it."
"So it looks like I'll arrive in Cairo first," David said. He was as worried as the rest of them, but knew that someone had to at least have the air about him of being in charge. "Okay," he told Ely, "Here's what you need to tell Greg to do. It isn't much, I know, but the important thing right now is to keep his mind occupied until we get there, and that will help."
Greg was still startled when his phone rang again, even though he was holding it tightly in his hand, staring at the screen, willing it to ring. He flipped it open even before it finished its ring. "Ely?!?"
"Yes, Greg, any sign of Ken?"
"No!" Greg sobbed. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
"Okay my love. Now try to calm down and listen to me. My friend, David, will be there in about an hour and a half. You'll need to meet him at the airport. Do you remember the night in Miami, when we went out after you learned to change your appearance? Do you remember what you looked like?"
"Yeah, I remember," Greg said. "I looked like..."
"Don't say it!!" Ely cut him off. He heard Greg swallow hard even over the phone. "David said just in case anyone found a way to listen in on our phone conversations, not to describe yourself. Just make sure you look the same at the airport. I've already described you to David; I had to, even though that was taking a chance, so you'll have to sit and wait for him to approach you." Greg sobbed a weak answer and nodded. "Now - is there a place in the park there where you can see both the park, and the window of your room?"
Greg looked around. "Yeah, there is."
"Wait there and watch both," Ely said. "Don't go back to your room under any circumstance. If you see Ken in the window, call him and tell him to meet you outside. But don't go back there. If you see anyone else at the window, just remember what they look like. We'll go get your things from the room when we can all go together. If Ken comes back, certainly call immediately, otherwise, go to the airport when it's time and meet David. Alex and I shouldn't be too far behind. We'll make some sense of this all when we all get there."
Greg swallowed and nodded. "Alright."
After Ely closed his phone, Alex reached out to hold his arm while his eyes were still closed. "I still can't feel him," he said softly. As Ely was able to pick up on Greg's fear when Greg wished he was there, Alex was trying to pick up Ken in his mind, too.
Ely looked over at Alex and saw that he was ghostly pale. No color at all in his face, showing his own fear. Ely patted Alex's hand. "Keep in mind," he told Alex, "that you may not be feeling him because wherever he is, he may not be in any danger, and may not be fearful of anything." Alex only nodded slightly, not convinced. "David is the expert now," Ely continued. "As long as he is confident, we should be too. I know we can trust him, and we can trust his judgment. We should do exactly what he says. He's correct, I think, that if we just follow the rules, we'll be doing our best."
"Yes, I know," Alex mumbled. He opened his eyes completely and looked at Ely. Ely saw the fear in Alex; felt it, almost like it was a living thing pushing against him. "I also know," Alex went on, "that as good as David is, all his expertise is in dealings with humans. But we aren't dealing with humans here. We're dealing with one of our own. That changes all the rules."
Greg sat in a chair at the airport, his mind racing. Ken had not shown up back at the park, nor at the window of their room. As David had instructed through Ely, he didn't go back to their room. He'd waited as long as he could, and then came to the airport. Ely had told him to concentrate on maintaining something of a poker face. If someone was watching the airport it wouldn't do for them to see anyone who looked worried, as that would draw their attention.
At the park he'd thought about Ken. He didn't want to, but he couldn't help thinking about the possibility that Ken was no longer with them. The second spot of blood on the sidewalk couldn't have come from anyone else but someone who was one of them, and as much as he hated thinking so, that someone could have tricked Ken into tasting his blood, taking Ken out. Apparently that someone had also jumped from the window for some reason and Ken was chasing him. So something must have happened in their room while he was outside talking to Ely on the phone. But what? And who? And dammit, why!?
As the flights landed and the passengers streamed into the airport, Greg's eyes tried to take them all in without appearing obvious about it. It was difficult trying to read that many people that fast, and he'd not really practiced it before. But he only needed a split second with each person. All he really needed to know was if he actually could read them at all. He didn't care about what was in their minds; only whether or not he could get in. If he could, then that person couldn't be this David, or he would have his mental block in place and Greg wouldn't be able to read anything.
He had no idea what David would look like. He himself was now a redhead, hair cut short, freckles covering his nose, a smaller stature and about 20 pounds lighter than his normal self; the same look he had several years ago when he went out in Miami after he and Ken learned how to change their appearance. Ely had also told him that when this David approached him, he would ask a question that only Greg and Ely would know the answer to, and that Ely had told David what that answer would be. Greg didn't know the question. Ely said that David had trained with the Israeli intelligence agency. When he was still human, growing up, Greg had seen all the required James Bond and other spy movies, and knew a little something about all the code phrases and such that those guys used. On one hand he knew that stuff like that was most likely necessary, but on the other hand he thought it was a bit silly.
Suddenly he noticed a man walking quickly up to him. As he looked the man smiled and waved to him. Greg made eye contact, and as he suspected, he could see nothing. When he was in ear shot, the man said, "Smile! Quickly!" Greg smiled, but a little sheepishly. "Get up and hug me like I'm a long lost brother!" the man said through a smile of his own. Greg got up and embraced the man. While they hugged, the man quickly said in Greg's ear, "Anyone watching should get the impression that we are simply friends or relatives." He pulled back from the embrace and held Greg at arms length. "Let me look at you!" he said a little louder so the people around them could hear, and looked Greg up and down. Greg didn't know what to do, so he stood still and smiled. "Let's sit down a second," the man said and sat down, pulling Greg down into the seat next to him. He leaned in close, talking and smiling. "I certainly do hope you're Greg!"
Greg hadn't seen the man before. He didn't remember seeing him walk into the airport from the gate. As far as Greg knew, this man could have been in the airport all the time, now only pretending to be Ely's friend. He could be trouble, and Greg didn't trust him. But he kept the smile on his face. "Who are you?" he asked warily.
"I'm David," he said. "I'm here to help you and Ely." Greg relaxed...a little. "Tell me, Greg," David said. "When you first arrived in Florida with Ely after he initiated the change in you, he took you on a tour of his house and grounds. He told you that you needed to do something. What was it?"
Greg thought about it. This was the question!? His mind stumbled. Dammit! He couldn't remember! David was watching him. Greg was nervous. Now what? What if he couldn't remember, and this guy thought Greg was the one who was trouble at the airport and did something to him. Then it hit him. "Oh yeah!" he said, obviously relieved. "He said I needed to expand my vocabulary."
David nodded. "And why did he say that?"
"Because while he showed me his house, all I said was `Wow' over and over again."
David smiled even more. "Perfect," he said. "You can trust me now. Go ahead and see for yourself." And he lowered his mental block. Greg entered his mind and saw that David was telling the truth. That was all he cared about, and backed out. As he did, he could feel David blocking his mind again.
"Can you find Ken?" Greg asked quickly, his smile vanishing. "He never did come back, and he didn't show up back in the hotel either."
"I'll do all I can, Greg," David said and put a hand on Greg's shoulder. "Let's walk over to the baggage claim. I have two bags, and one of them is a bit heavy. By the way, which hotel were you in, and what room?"
Greg told him as they stood up and started walking through the airport. He was still looking somewhat warily at David. "Are you sure we need to do all this cloak and dagger stuff?" he asked. He waved an arm around, indicating the entire building. "I've made eye contact with everyone in here while I was waiting, and I could get into all their minds. No one is watching us."
David smiled and nodded. "Good thought, Greg, and a nice job, but I'm afraid that a guy properly trained in surveillance techniques and is good at it would never allow himself to be spotted. As an example," he said and pointed behind him toward the gate, "I came off the plane just now and you didn't spot me." Greg's eyes widened. "But I spotted you."
Greg's shoulders slumped. "Okay."
David put his arm back on Greg's shoulder. "Keep smiling!" he said, and Greg slammed a smile back on his face. "Tell me about Ken," David said, and as they walked Greg told him all he knew about Ken's upbringing, when he completed the change, and what he'd done since then. "So he's certainly no dummy," David said. "He can't have had a childhood like that and not have learned a thing or two about survival." He looked at Greg. "I don't mean to pry, Greg, not at all, but are you in love with Ken?"
Greg shook his head. "I love him like a brother for sure, but I'm in love with Ely. Totally. Why would you even ask?"
David nodded. "I'm not trying to cause any trouble, but I thought that if you had those same feelings for Ken that you do for Ely, maybe you could feel him."
Greg thought about it a second, and then remembered Alex and Ely telling them years ago about the mental connection that two of them in love with each other have. "So that's why Ely called me when I was in the park. He called me before I even thought to call him. He knew something was wrong."
"That's right," David said. "When he called me, he said he felt that you were in some kind of trouble. Problem is, Alex didn't feel anything from Ken. At least so far he hasn't."
"What's that mean? That one of them doesn't really love the other?"
"Oh, I doubt that," David told him. "Our emotions are heightened, as you know, and that makes it tough to hide them. Love shows, but so does a lack of love. If one of them stopped loving the other, the other one would know it without being told. No, I think Alex didn't feel anything either because something is up with Ken, like at the worst, maybe he's unconscious." Greg's head snapped around to look David in his eyes, prompting another admonishment to keep smiling. "We can still be knocked unconscious, Greg," he continued, "and while we're out, we can't do anything. When we come to, we're back to our normal, that's all. But another reason why Alex can't feel Ken right now may be that Ken himself doesn't feel as though he's in any danger. Therefore, he's not in that kind of fear right now."
They reached the baggage claim area where the belt was moving bags around. There were only a few people at the carousel, so David kept talking. "In these kind of situations, it's easy for an untrained person to lose track of time. Ken may simply be doing what he's doing and hasn't realized how long it's taken. You said you figured that he's chasing someone. Maybe he still is. Maybe he's not especially frightened at the moment, but doesn't consider it safe to try to contact you. You said yourself that you did manage to tell Ken not to talk inside your room at the hotel. He'd think for himself to avoid calling the room." Greg didn't look like he felt any better. David clapped his shoulder, trying to be reassuring. "We must prepare for the worst, Greg, only as a matter of procedure and safety. But we'll certainly hope for the best."
They took David's bags and headed back through the airport to rent a car. David filled out the paperwork and took the keys. As with the airline ticket, he'd waited until the last minute to rent the car. They walked outside to the car, and David held up his finger to tell Greg to be quiet. He opened his bag and took out what looked to Greg to be a radio with some extra wires and antennas attached to it. David got in the car, put an earpiece in his ear, and Greg saw him turn the contraption on. He waved it around the car, front and back. Apparently satisfied, he got out of the car and put the radio back in his bag, and then pulled a small flashlight from the bag, lay down and scooted under the car. After a couple of minutes he dragged himself back out and put the flashlight away. "Okay," he told Greg. "We can get in. There's no bug in the car, and it's not booby trapped."
Thinking of those kind of things only made Greg more nervous. David told the car to go around to the main parking lot. "We'll park here and go back in to wait for Ely," he told Greg. "They weren't far behind me. My flight was a little shorter than theirs. Their flight should be landing very soon." He turned to look at Greg. "Do you remember that night in Miami when you first learned how to change your appearance? The first look you tried? The blonde guy?" Greg nodded. "Change into that guy," David told him. "I'll change too, to what Ely expects to see. That way we'll be two different guys walking back into the airport. Anyone who may have been watching will think we've left." They both changed into different guys. David reached into his other bag and handed Greg some baggy jeans and another shirt. "I hope these fit good enough," he said. "We can't be two completely different guys if we go back in wearing the exact same clothes. Besides, you still have some dried blood of your own on your jeans. It`s not safe for any of us to get too close to you right now. I`ve already taken a risk, so get rid of your jeans and stay in these." No one was around, so they stripped down and changed clothes in the parking lot, and went back into the airport and headed for the gate. David took them a few gates past the one Ely and Alex's plane was due to arrive to, so a tail would think they were unconcerned with that gate. They sat where they could see the correct gate, and waited.
Alex sat in his seat with his head turned toward the plane's window, but his eyes were closed. Ely knew he was still concentrating, trying to feel Ken. Even in the subdued lighting of the plane, Ely could see that Alex's color hadn't returned to his face. Ely knew Alex was devastated. He too, was worried sick, but at least he'd been in contact with Greg. Ely checked his watch. David should be with Greg by now. Hopefully he'd reassured Greg, though Ely could still feel flashes of Greg's fear. He'd stopped telling Alex each time he felt Greg, not wanting to rub in the fact that at least they knew Greg was safe. He looked up ahead at the front wall of the plane, where there was a screen on the wall of every plane now days that showed a world map. The plane's position in relation to its destination was plotted on the map. They should hear an announcement soon that the descent was beginning. Ely tried to hope for the best. He knew David very well, and had every confidence in him. Alex didn't know him at all, but right now Alex was doing the best thing that could be done in trying to get a feel for Ken.
Ely felt a hand on his arm. He turned and Alex was looking at him, a pained expression on his face. Ely tensed.
"Ely," Alex said softly. Ely nodded. "If anything has happened to Ken. If he's gone. If he's been taken out - I want to go with him."
"Alex!" Ely took Alex's hand. "Don't say that."
"No, no." Alex said. "I know very well what I'm saying." He gripped Ely's arm harder. "After you, I haven't loved anyone else. It took six hundred years to find Ken! If he's gone, there's nothing left for me. I want to be with Ken always - I don't care where. If he's gone, I want to be with him." He took a breath and looked harder at Ely. "And I want you to send me on."
Ely stiffened. "Do you know what you're asking?"
"Yes, yes, I do," Alex said. "If we find out Ken's gone, I want to drink your blood, and go be with Ken." Alex shifted to face Ely. "Promise me you'll help me, Ely."
Ely squirmed. "It's not time to think such things, Alex! Wait until we know for sure..."
Alex cut him off. "No!" he said forcefully. Ely glanced around them. The plane wasn't full by any means, but he still wanted to see if anyone heard. "You don't understand. When I first met Ken, I almost didn't allow myself to fall in love with him. It's not your fault, Ely, but losing you tore me apart. That's another reason it took me so long to let myself fall in love again. I know it's a weakness with me, but when I commit to someone, I commit completely. With you, we fell out of love. Well, you're the one who ended it with me." Ely winced. "To tell you the truth, I never really fell out of love with you until I met Ken. But the point is, when I finally let myself fall for Ken, I fell completely. I'm only now realizing it, it's true, but you have to believe me when I say that without Ken, I don't want to go on. I can't go on!" Tears were streaming down Alex's face. Ely took a napkin and tried to wipe them away. It didn't work.
"I'm asking you as a friend," Alex sobbed, "I'm begging you to help me." He leaned into Ely. "If you won't help me, I'll find someone who will, but it will mean so much to me if you do it." He raised his head to look into Ely's eyes. He almost sucked Ely into his mind, and Ely could painfully see that Alex was serious. The emotion he felt in Alex's mind almost made him dizzy. "Please, Ely!" Alex sobbed. "It will be the last favor you do for me, but it will be the biggest and the best! Promise me you'll do it, Ely! Please! Promise me!" And he let his head fall into Ely's chest, sobs wracking his body. Ely put his hand on Alex's head and stroked his hair.
"Alright, Alex." It was the hardest thing Ely could remember ever saying. "I promise."
The attendant announced that the descent into Cairo had begun.
Greg saw them first. Ely looked different but Alex was the same. As David told him, he didn't point. "That's them," he said simply. "Oh man! Alex is a mess!" He wasn't kidding. Ely was almost holding Alex up as they walked. Alex seemed like he was completely unaware of his surroundings.
David gave Greg a gentle push. "As quick as you can," he said, "go get the car. Bring it around front. I'll get these two outside."
Greg turned to leave, but stopped and looked at David. "What if someone got to the car..."
David shook his head. "It's safe, Greg," He said with a wink. "I'll explain later, but if something was wrong with the car, I'd know by now. Go on." Greg hurried to the doors. Behind him, he heard David's voice, talking and laughing, loudly, once again obviously for the benefit of anyone listening. "You still can't get on a plane or a boat without getting seasick in the first few minutes! What are we going to do with you?"
Greg could see the entrance to the airport from the car. At this hour, the place was almost empty, and there were no other cars in front of the entrance. The rental cars from the airport had an extra console connected to the computers. Greg only had to hit the button labeled "Main Ent" and the car maneuvered itself to the door. David and Ely walked out of the entrance with Alex between them and got into the car. David and Alex got into the back seat and Ely slid into the front and immediately hugged Greg tighter than he ever had before. David had to clear his throat a little dramatically to get them to separate so they could leave.
"Where should we go?" Greg asked.
"Let's head to your hotel," David said. "As long as we're together and can look out for each other, we need to go to your room and look around. Maybe there's something there that will tell us where Ken went, or why, or with who." Greg entered the coordinates into the computer and the car drove itself away from the airport.
David and Ely quickly hugged in the car. "I can't thank you enough, David," Ely said.
David shushed him. "It's no problem at all, Ely. I just hope my being here will actually do some good." He turned to Alex and put a hand on his shoulder. "If Ken is anywhere in Cairo," he told Alex, "we'll find him." Alex only looked meekly at David, and nodded slightly and closed his eyes.
Greg turned around, looking at Alex, his worry obvious. "I'm so sorry, Alex!" he told him. "If I had any way of knowing, I'd have done something. Anything! I'd have..." Alex only raised his hand, but did so forcefully, and Greg knew to shut up. He looked pained and turned away.
Ely leaned over to Greg and spoke softly. "He needs to concentrate, my love," he said, "so he can pick up on Ken. He's the only one of us who can do that. He`s not angry, only worried." It didn't help much, but Greg nodded.
During the ride to the hotel, David traded seats with Greg so he could take over control of the car. Greg settled in the back seat next to Alex and told David about where the hotel was. It was downtown, and according to the map in the car, there were several exits from the freeway near the hotel. As they were driving, Greg told them what had happened to make them suspicious of Father Pete, and what happened when Greg stepped off the elevator and saw Ken jump through the window, and what he'd done then.
Greg felt a hand on his thigh, and looked at Alex beside him. Alex still had his eyes closed, but had reached over to Greg's leg. He squeezed Greg's thigh a couple of times and nodded. Greg relaxed a little at the gesture and took hold of Alex's hand.
"Well," David said, "obviously someone came to your room when you were outside talking to Ely on the phone." He turned and looked at Greg. "You said Ken was naked. At that point, there were things happening, you both were worried. So worried that you asked us to come down. That's not a situation that would make anyone particularly horny, so who do you and Ken know here in Cairo well enough that you would have sex with him even with all this stuff going on?"
Greg's eyes widened. "The bellboy!" He looked back and forth at Ely and David. "But it can't be him! He's completely innocent."
"You're sure of that?" Ely asked.
"Yeah! We've been playing around with him since we've been here. We've both read him several times. He's a college student, and that's all he is. He's just a really nice guy is all, even something of a friend. I don't understand how it could possibly be him."
"It could be him if he's an unwitting dupe," David said. "It could be that whoever is after you two got to the bellboy, fed off him, and then looked like him so he could gain your confidence. It could be that if you saw the real bellboy and read him again, he'd have nothing in his mind about this at all. Whoever fed off him would make sure to wipe the memory out of his head."
"Oh man!" Greg groaned.
"What?" Ely asked. "What is it, my love?"
"He had a cup of coffee with us in our room the other day," Greg told them. "He was working a double shift and looked really tired. He'd also worked the night before, and said there were parts of that night he couldn't remember!"
David nodded. "Well, now we know why."
Everyone fell silent for a few minutes. Greg still held Alex's hand. Ely stared straight ahead. David was punching buttons on the computer console when his phone rang. It only rang once and he didn't answer it, but glanced at its screen. "1021," he told the others and glanced at Greg. "We got the room right across the hall from yours."
Ely looked at David. "How did you do that?
"Actually, I didn't do it," David said. "Enzo did."
"Enzo!?" Ely gasped. "He is here, then?"
David nodded. "Yes, he's here. He's functioning as my backup. The plan is for him to stay out of sight and give us whatever support we need. He's already gotten the room at the hotel and checked in. He won't be there when we get there, but the room will be unlocked and the key card will be in it." He looked back at Greg again. "That's how I knew this car was still safe after we'd parked it at the airport. Enzo was watching it for us. He'd have called if he saw anyone tamper with it." David quickly winked at Greg.
Greg knew why David winked. "I know," he said softly and cast his eyes down. "I didn't spot him, either."
"Did Enzo train with you in Israel?" Ely asked him.
David shook his head. "No. I trained him myself, and he learned very well. We can trust him. You'll see him after this is all over, but right now he's most valuable to us all if he stays out of sight."
Greg leaned up to the front seat. "But how did he know to do that? You didn't call him or anything that I could see."
"I'm wearing a wire. He's listening to everything we say." The guys all glanced at each other. "Don't worry about it. If anything happens to us, it'll be good to know that some backup is on his way - the old idea of the cavalry coming, you know." Greg pointed out that their exit was coming up. David nodded but was punching instructions on the console and the car drove on past it, and took the next exit instead. "Don't be obvious about it," he told the guys, "but notice that behind us, three other cars took this exit with us." Ely and Greg tried to look behind them without actually turning around. It was very difficult to do. "What I'll do now is re-enter the freeway right away. If any of those three cars get back on the freeway with us, we'll know we're being followed." He guided the car back onto the on-ramp of the freeway. The other cars drove on past them. Ely and Greg looked at each other and sighed.
"What if one of them did follow us?" Ely asked David.
"First thing we'd do is exit the freeway again, and re-enter it right away one more time and see if the car still followed us," David explained. "Then we'd just keep driving and go to a different hotel. We'd settle down at a place where we could set up some protection. The idea is to establish a base and force your enemy to come to you, thereby forcing him to show himself. In that situation, you're the one in control, not them."
"But if they were following us, they would be awful close," Ely said. "What if they tried to do something before we had a chance to get ready?"
"That's where Enzo would come in - right behind them."
Ely shook his head. "This is very complicated, David. I'm glad you're here. And Enzo too!"
David smiled. "For me and Enzo it's all routine," he said. "For us, there's not the same concern, but for humans in this kind of business, sticking to these kind of rules keeps them alive." They finished the drive to the hotel in silence.
David was right; their room was ready. They met only the receptionist in the lobby of the hotel, and one look from Ely caused her to forget what she'd just seen; four guys walking thru the lobby with one of them appearing suspiciously inebriated, or something.
The first thing they did was put Alex to bed. Ely and Greg stripped him down to his underwear and tucked him under the blankets. Alex appeared not to have noticed. Greg whispered to Ely, "How will he know anything about Ken if he's sleeping?"
"It will wake him up, quite dramatically," Ely said.
David took the key to Greg's room from him. He opened his heavy bag and took out a couple of instruments, including the radio like device he'd used in the car. With their room door open, Greg and Ely watched David go into Greg's old room. He went to the phone and unscrewed the mouthpiece, looked inside, and replaced the cover while shaking his head. He picked up the phone and looked under it. He took a wire dangling from his device with alligator clips attached to one end, and clamped them on the phone cord. The teeth of the clip were sharp enough to puncture the cord and make contact with the wire. Then he signaled to Greg to call the phone. Greg pulled out his cell phone and dialed his room's number while David watched a screen on his device. The screen measured the amperage of the electrical current in the phone cord. He let the phone ring. When the voice mail service answered the phone, opening the connection, the amperage dropped twice as much as it should have. David disconnected the device, put an earpiece in his ear, and started walking around the room, waving the device as he'd done earlier in the car. Greg and Ely heard a soft humming noise coming from the radio.
The transmitter on the device was emitting the hum on one frequency, while the radio scanned its full spectrum of frequencies. The idea was that if there were any microphones in the room, they would pick up the noise of the hum, and transmit that noise to a receiver somewhere. David would hear the hum in his earpiece when the scanner reached the frequency the microphones were transmitting on. To make sure, he kept changing the frequencies that emitted the hum as he walked around the room. He walked out of sight of the door into the suite's sitting area, still waving the apparatus around.
The explosion first slammed the door closed, then flung it off its hinges into the hallway; the concussion knocking Greg and Ely to the floor.
The first thing Ely and Greg did was look behind them at Alex. He lay on the bed, stirring and blinking his eyes, looking for the source of the interruption, but was apparently physically unscathed.
Other doors along the hallway opened, and more than a few women screamed. The guys then looked across the hall to see an extremely bloodied David stumble out into the hallway and fall to his knees. In one hand he was holding his other arm. Greg rolled onto his stomach with his hand up to his mouth and began gagging. Ely went out into the hall and made eye contact with the women. He didn't make them forget they'd heard an explosion - that would be unrealistic - but he did make them forget they'd seen him and David at all. Greg lay on the floor in shock. Ely hurried back into the room and pulled Greg out of the doorway. David stayed in the hallway. As Ely and Greg watched, David nonchalantly held his severed arm up to its shoulder, and then all his injuries vanished: the arm stayed put. He stood up and looked around, then motioned for Ely to hurry.
Ely ran through the room while Greg still stayed on the floor and watched. He grabbed the blankets and sheets off the other bed and lined them up end to end on the floor, making a path leading into the bathroom. David was able to maintain eye contact with other guests who were coming out into the hallway, making sure they didn't "see" him. When the path was ready, David walked on it into the bathroom. There he stripped out of his bloody clothes and showered the rest of the spilled blood off his body, taking care to make sure it all went down the drain. He wrapped a towel around his waist and then went back through the room, gathered up the sheets and blankets along with his clothes and bundled it all up.
Then Greg understood. David was the only one of them who could safely touch his own blood, so he had to be the one to clean up after himself. David took the last sheet off the bed and used it as a final, clean wrapping for the bundle. He put the bundle against the far wall, out of the way, and sat down on the floor. He took in a deep breath, let it all out in a long sigh, and then said, "Man, I hate when that happens!"
Ely crossed the room with a tiny smile on his face and hugged David. Greg was still staring at him, the color drained from his face. David smiled at Greg, "I know it looked a sight, Greg, but I'm okay." Greg only nodded. Alex had sat up in bed but wasn't talking.
The police began arriving and the guys heard the footsteps in the hall. They heard the voices of some of the other guests in the rooms along the hall. Some of the women were crying, the men sounded angry. It was apparent that everyone was already blaming one kind of terrorist group or another. It didn't happen nearly as often as it happened in the old days, but terrorists still acted now and then, and in places like Egypt and the Middle East more than any other. These days, it seemed the terrorists were acting more against each other than against any government. People in general seemed to think to leave them alone and let them simply kill each other off. Until something happened close by, that is.
"One of us is going to have to talk to them," David said. "It would be suspicious to find out we were all in here and didn't pay any attention to something like that." He looked at Ely. "Enzo reserved this room in your name."
"I'll do it," Ely said. David pulled Greg up off the floor and took him and Alex into the bathroom. Ely opened the door of the room and joined the growing crowd in the hallway. Police were entering and leaving Greg's room. Ely could see that it was in shambles. The furniture was overturned and ripped. The walls appeared peppered with holes. The door lay on the hallway floor, equally covered with holes. The room's windows were broken out, and Ely could see some of Greg's and Ken's things in the room. He saw a back pack on the floor, and wished he could get to it. Maybe later, after most of the people left, but certainly not now.
After only a few minutes enough police arrived to clear out the hallway, shooing other guests back into their rooms. One officer followed Ely back into the room to ask him some questions.
"Did you see anything?"
"No. I've only been here for the past half hour. I just arrived from the airport."
"Where did you come from?"
"Why are you in Egypt?"
"I'm due to give a lecture at the university."
"How long will you be here?"
"Only a few days. I will visit some friends as long as I'm here."
"What is your address in London?"
"I was staying at a hotel in London. I live in the United States. Here is the address and phone number there."
"What flight did you come in on? - What kind of work do you do? - Who is your contact at the univeristy?" The questions took almost 20 minutes. Ely was in constant eye contact with the policeman. He would allow the policeman check up on the facts of those questions Ely answered truthfully, and would tell him not to check up on the questions that Ely knew couldn't be verified. He couldn't make the policeman forget that he was ever in the room, or someone would notice that there were no records in the investigation of this room being visited, and that would raise too many eyebrows.
The policeman left, and Ely hurried into the bathroom. Greg was sitting on the edge of the tub. Ely sat down next to him and wrapped him up in a hug. They held each other and Ely smoothed Greg's hair and mumbled reassurances to him. Alex was sitting on the floor, slumped over a little, watching them.
David snapped his phone closed and smiled at Ely. "Greg is doing good!" he said.
Ely nodded but kept holding Greg. His face was buried in Ely's chest; small sobs escaping now and then. They all knew to keep an eye on Greg. Even Alex glanced over at him now and then. Greg had no experience with these kind of situations, and both Alex and Ely were thinking that this one was one of the worst even for them. Only David appeared to act as though it was all nothing out of the ordinary.
"Enzo has already gotten us reservations at two other hotels," he told them. "He's already checked into one of them and left the door unlocked for us. He's heading to the other now. We'll go to the one that is ready as soon as we can get out of here."
"There are some things in their room that we may need," Ely said. He pushed Greg away from his chest to look at him. "You'll need to tell us what to get, my love," he told him. "Your school bag, I'm sure, but you'll need to tell us what else." Greg nodded.
David said, "Don't worry about that. I can come back later, after the police leave, and get whatever you want. As soon as we can, we need to get out of here. We can't really do anything else until we get somewhere else."
Greg turned to look at David. "What happened?" he asked weakly.
"Well," David sighed deeply, "you're phone was tapped. There were at least four microphones in your room." Greg held Ely tighter. "Apparently, one of the microphones was right next to the explosive device. It could have been designed to go off if someone like me brought in equipment to look for the microphones. It would explode when the frequency I was using hit the one that matched the frequency the bomb was waiting to receive. Or it could have been placed there to be detonated remotely. Maybe if whoever was listening to you guys heard something specific, he was to detonate the device immediately." David shrugged. "Either way, it was a device full of shrapnel. It was designed not so much to destroy the room, but to destroy whoever was in it. Apparently, the door to the room absorbed the shrapnel before it was knocked off its hinges. That`s why none of you got hit."
"But how would that work?" Ely asked. "Surely they knew both Ken and Greg were one of us, and the bomb wouldn't destroy us at all. Just like it didn't destroy you."
"We still have to be careful with bombs though," David told them. "Especially a shrapnel bomb. If you look at the room now, you'll see my blood everywhere. If we were in the room together, all of our blood would have been blown all over the room. I think what they were hoping was that the explosion of blood would cause our blood to splatter on each other's shrapnel wounds and mix, and that would be enough to get rid of us." He looked at Greg. "I'm afraid you and Ken have stumbled onto something huge here." Greg face was only beginning to get some color back into it, but now he went pale again and leaned into Ely. "I'm sorry," David said to Greg. "I know this a lot to ask of you. This is really your first experience with something like this, isn't it?" Greg only nodded.
"How about that?" David said. "The first experience and it has to be the worst kind." He reached out and patted Greg's leg. "We'll all see you through this," he told Greg, then reached out with his other hand and took hold of Alex's hand. "They got to Ken already, at least so far, but they won't get to any of us. We'll stay together. It's a lot tougher to get to four people than it is to get to one. We'll be okay as long as we stay together." He gestured to Greg. "Right now you should call your professor. No one will be there at this hour so you can leave a message. Tell him you had a family emergency come up and you and Ken had to return to the States for a few days. It'll give you some time off. It won't be safe for you to go back until this is over. You'd be an easy target there. Also, their voice mail equipment will record the time your message came in, so tell him you are calling from the States. That will be proof that you and Ken had been nowhere near your room for a long time before the bomb exploded. Otherwise the police will be all over the place looking for you."
Greg made the call, then they took the pillows off the beds and arranged them so Alex could stretch out on the bathroom floor. If a knock came at the door, Greg and David would have to hide in the bathroom while Ely saw to whoever came calling. Alex already being in there would save them some time, as they wouldn't have to wake him up and help him move into the bathroom. With Alex resting in the bathroom, the others sat in the sitting area.
David looked at Greg, "The receptionist was wearing a green vest with the hotel's logo on it," he said. "Do the bellboys all wear the same kind of vest?" Greg nodded. "There was a vest like that on the floor in your room. I saw it while I was looking around." Greg closed his eyes. "So it's pretty definite that it was a bellboy Ken let into the room. At least he was one of us masquerading as a bellboy. When do you think you'll see your bellboy again?"
"He works the evening shift," Greg said softly. "He'd usually come up to our room after he finished work. Sometimes he'd come when he was on his lunch break, but mostly after he finished work."
"Well," David said. "If you see him, point him out to us. We need to ask him some questions."
"I'm sure he's innocent," Greg said. "He's just a college kid. His father's a dean at the university. He doesn't have to work to put himself through school, but his dad sounds like the kind of guy who'd make him work anyway, just to learn the value of money like everyone else."
David nodded. "I'm sure he's innocent, too. But what I meant by asking him questions was to simply get into his mind and see what, if anything, he remembers. There could be something there that would be helpful."
The suite came with the means to make tea and coffee. Ely made a pot and poured a cup for all of them. They sat sipping and talked.
"Let's see just exactly what it is we know, and what we don't know," David said. Greg was staring at the floor. "I'm sorry, Greg, but we have to keep moving, and keep acting. Hopefully we can soon get to the point where we can act. Right now we are only reacting to someone else`s actions, and that's not good. We won't find Ken that way."
"I know," Greg said. He tried to smile. "Are we sure Ken is still with us at all? I mean, that he hasn't already been...you know?"
"I'm sure of it, or Alex would know," David said. "I've seen some us taken out before." He looked at Ely. "Have you or Alex?" Ely shook his head. "Then Alex most likely doesn't know that he would know. The guys I saw however, actually made the choice to leave themselves. There were four guys, two couples. They wanted to leave, and they tasted each other's blood in front of a few of us. You see, they went out with love, so no one else had any idea. Their exit wasn't sudden, or dramatic, or traumatic. If it were, the others of us who had any intimate, emotional attachment to them would have felt it. If Ken was taken out violently, his last thoughts here in this world would have caused a huge force of mental energy - the realization of what was happening to him would have caused a panic within him, as you can imagine. That energy would be like a bass drum being pounded inside Alex's mind. Believe me, he would know!"
David glanced to the bathroom door and lowered his voice. "I haven't told him that yet because right now his mind is already in overdrive. He's imagining all kinds of things right now. He's got enough going on in his head as it is. The reaction I'm talking about is one that we need to be aware of for him."
Greg perked up some. "So Ken's still here somewhere? He's really still around?"
"I'm sure of it," David said. "That's why we can't sit still. We need to get as far as we can before physical exhaustion takes over." Greg let go of Ely and sat up, alert now. The color was returning to his face.
"So," David said, bringing them all back to focus. "We do know that you and Ken stumbled onto something big, and at least one of us is a rogue."
"Gone bad.." Greg said.
"Yes, gone bad," David answered. "We don't know what, or why, or even who yet. We know that it is this Father Petricello, whoever he really is, and we know that it has something to do with this figure thing he was drawing on those documents. We know that he is willing to commit felonies to do whatever he's doing - tampering with government archeological antiquities, altering them. We know he's willing to do anything to get you out of the way."
"It appears," Ely said, "that in general, he's tampering with history."
David nodded, "That's right, and the why of it could be anything. We don't know if he's working alone, but we do know that while he's good, he's not an expert. I doubt that he's been trained in this kind of stuff like I have."
"How do you know that?" Greg asked.
"He's already made mistakes, too many of them," David said. "Working alone is a mistake in itself - but then again, he may not be. He, or they, tapped your phone, Greg, and bugged your room. You and Ken were usually gone from your room for hours at a time. That would have given them plenty of time, but they didn't search your room. I'm sure they didn't or you would have noticed something. That was a mistake. "
"How can you be sure?" Greg asked. "Neither Ken or I know anything about this stuff. Couldn't they have searched and just been careful to leave things as they were? Neither one of us would have known what to look for."
"That's true, but it just a gut instinct I have," David said. "They already knew that you'd seen this figure he was working with. If it were me, I'd have searched your room and taken anything you had on the subject - your notes, your laptop, plus anything else in the room that would make it look like an ordinary robbery so you wouldn't know that it was your notes I was really after. If it were that important to me, I wouldn't have missed any step to protect myself. By leaving your things intact, they were making a mistake. They're already being sloppy, Greg, and I know that you and Ken aren't dummies. If they did do a perfunctory search of your room, I'm sure that one or both of you would have noticed something. After all, you were already suspicious, so your senses would have been more alert." Greg nodded, appreciating the confidence.
"Another mistake," David continued, "was in taking Ken by himself. If you have two targets, and those two targets always stayed together as you and Ken did, then you have to take both targets out together. When the fake bellboy arrived at your room and saw that Ken was alone, the proper thing to do would have been to abort the mission and try again when he could catch both of you together. Now, they already had your phone tapped and your room bugged, so they already knew that at least two more of us were on our way. That could have been the purpose of the bomb - to detonate when we were all together in the room. That's why I think the bomb was detonated prematurely by the frequencies I was using to locate the microphones. They could have been waiting to hear through the microphones that we were all there together. But still, taking Ken by himself and leaving the rest of us able to fight back was a huge, and very sloppy mistake. I'm sure we're not dealing with professionals here, but then again, amateurs can be dangerous on their own. They often act impulsively, and that makes them dangerously unpredictable."
"That doesn't sound very reassuring, David," Ely said. "In fact, it makes it all sound even more dangerous." Greg nodded his agreement.
"Well, it can, but keep in mind, it's another something that we know," David answered. "And knowing that helps us plan our next steps. It's one thing to know you're up against pros; it means you have to act in a certain way. Knowing that you're up against amateurs only means that you work another way. At least we know which way to work. That much guessing is out of the way now."
"It might be," Greg said, "but it seems like we don't know a lot more than we do know. We have a long way to go, and Ken is still out there somewhere."
"Well we may only know a little bit, but every little bit helps," David said. He glanced toward the door of the room. They could still hear plenty of commotion out in the hallway. Most likely the local bomb squad was in the room trying to determine what kind of bomb was in there. "I'd like to keep moving, but it looks like we're going to be stuck here for several hours yet," he told the others. "The best thing we can do with that time right now is get some rest."
Greg's head snapped up. "I can't even think of sleeping!" he said. "Isn't there something we can do?"
"There comes a time, Greg," David told him, "when sleep is a powerful weapon. You're at your best when you're rested and alert. When I was in the field, I learned to take the opportunity to sleep whenever it came up. I can do it. And Ely can get into your head and make you sleep, then I can get into Ely's head and make him sleep. We can't do anything else right now anyway, so lets make use of the opportunity we have."
On David's instructions they got into the same bed. The room was only registered to Ely after all, and if the police or anyone knocked on their door and came in, they may get suspicious to see two beds messed up. They checked on Alex, who had already fallen asleep on his own, so they left him alone. In the bed, Ely made eye contact with Greg, and Greg's eyes closed. David then did the same for Ely. When both of them were breathing steady, in a deep sleep, David eased himself out of the bed. He fixed himself another cup of tea and went to sit in the sitting area. As he sat, he glanced up toward the sky. `It's been over 50 years since I did anything resembling this kind of work,' he thought. `Please don't let me forget anything!'
Father Pete folded the paper he was reading. He looked across the table. "You say the bomb exploded in the early hours of the morning?" He was still in his clerical attire.
Omar nodded. "I don't know what time exactly, but certainly before dawn," he said between bites of his breakfast.
Father Pete tapped the newspaper. "Then this edition was most likely just going to press when the story came in. It doesn't say much, but it does say that the police found blood and clothes scattered about the room."
"Well there would have been two sets of clothes anyway. Mine and Ken's. The bomb could have scattered them around some, making it look like more than there was. Same with the blood. We don't know if it was one person`s blood, or a mixture of several."
"Yes, that's true," Father Pete sighed. "It would be nice to know exactly what they found, however. How many pants, how many shirts. Then we would know if we got them all. It`s too bad we all have the same blood type or we could use that information."
"Another thing is that there were no voices on the tape. Either no one was in the room, or they weren't talking, or the microphones weren't working, but I doubt that four microphones would all fail at the same time. I might be able to go back later and look around. Unless they've already removed everything, I can count what clothes are there."
"Even that may be too risky," Father Pete shook his head. "The place is crawling with police right now, I'm sure. Not only them, but the paper said they already think it's terrorists. That means they'll call in help from international agencies. And that will only mean more police around."
"I can be the bellboy again. All I'd need to do is find a way to get into the room, even if only for a few seconds. It's something to think about. Maybe after the initial excitement dies down, most of the cops will leave. I can wait a day or so and then we'll see if it will help."
"How could the bomb have gone off by itself?" Father Pete asked. "You sure you didn't accidentally set it off?"
Omar shook his head. "I didn't even have the detonator with me last night. It was nearby, but it wasn't next to me. Besides, the cover is still over the button. I'd have to break the cover off completely to push the button, so if I did, even accidentally, the cover would be missing, but it's still there."
Father Pete leaned back. "There's not enough information!" he said. "Not in the paper, and not from what we can gather. But I think we have to assume we've missed them. Not only that, but now they are certainly on to us, and won't return to that room anyway. I doubt they'd come back even to get their things."
"I know it's a long shot," Omar said thoughtfully, "but I can get on the computer. I know there's an awful lot of hotels in the city, but think about it. There will be three of them. And since they are us anyway, they won't go to a cheap hotel. They'll go to one that has suites and amenities; same thing we would do. I can hack into the hotels' computers and look for three men who checked in today or last night. They're foreigners, so that will narrow the search quite a bit."
"Yes, that will help," Father Pete nodded to him. "But it still would be good to get inside that room, and as fast as we can. If we know there are four sets of clothes scattered in the room, we'll know we got them all, and we can forget about them and carry on. I'm only worried right now that they have the same idea and try to get there first and gather up their things."
"It wouldn't matter anyway," Omar said. "The police will impound everything in the room for evidence eventually, and will keep it no matter what until after the investigation. That's going to be a long time. No matter what they know now, they can't do anything with that knowledge."
"Yes, Omar, they can," Father Pete said. "I don't know how at the moment, but they think like we do, remember. You know we would find a way, and if we would, they will too." He stood up and walked across the room. He picked up a piece of pipe and stood with both feet planted squarely on the floor. His face was wrinkled up in an angry scowl, the skin red as he yelled, "You've caused us more trouble than you will know!"
He swung the pipe and smacked an already unconscious Ken in his head.
Ely's eyes blinked open first. He stretched out a bit and then remembered where he was and why. He quickly sat up in bed, checked the clock, and was shocked to see it was almost lunch time! He'd planned on getting only a few hours of sleep, but instead almost slept the morning away. Obviously they were more exhausted than they thought. He reached beside him and shook Greg a bit to start him waking up, then looked around and saw David sleeping on the small sofa in the sitting area, and he frowned.
He walked over to David and gently shook his shoulder. David's eyes snapped open and he suddenly sat up, wide awake. "What!?"
Ely sat down next to him. "David, why did you sleep here? There was plenty of room in the bed."
David smiled and patted Ely's arm. "It's okay, Ely. I'm fine." He grinned a little sheepishly. "I'm just not comfortable sleeping in a bed without Enzo in it. And Enzo is sleeping in a cramped car. Not very comfortable at all, and I feel a little guilty sleeping in a comfortable bed."
"I understand, David," Ely said softly. He reached out and lightly punched David's shoulder. "It's silly!...but I understand. I'll go check on Alex." Ely went into the bathroom while Greg sat up.
"Better get dressed," David told Greg. "We'll go to the restaurant in the hotel here and get something to eat."
"Can't we just call room service?" Greg asked while rubbing his eyes.
"Too risky," David shook his head. "We don't know who will deliver the meal, or what they'll deliver with it."
Greg nodded. "Oh yeah. Okay." He got out of bed and started for the bathroom, then suddenly stopped and turned; hurried across the room and hugged David. "I'm glad you're here. Thanks!"
David smiled and hugged Greg back. "Thanks for calling on me. I mean that."
Ely came out of the bathroom. "I put Alex in the shower," he said. "He says he feels better, even hungry. I think he'll be alright going out."
David's cell phone rang. "Ah," he said. "We'll see what Enzo's been up to." Enzo could hear through the wire David was wearing that they had all woken up and knew it was safe to call. David looked at the screen and saw a rather lengthy message there. "Well," he told the others, "apparently Enzo has been busy! It seems we have some more help. Or will have anyway."
Ely looked up. "What kind of help?"
"Enzo got hold of a few more people, and they are on their way. A couple of them may already be here, in fact. Among them is a couple who are trained as private investigators." David pursed his lips and nodded slowly while he thought it over. "Good work, Enzo! I'd forgotten about them."
"That can't be bad I'd think," Greg said.
"It's perfect," David told him. "Not only will their training come in handy, but it also means our backup team is expanding. When I was in the field, our backup actually consisted of several people, working in teams. To do a proper backup is too much for one person. Enzo knows that and found us some help."
"Are they human?" Greg asked.
"Oh no. They are us," David said. "Not to put them down, but I wouldn't ask any human to help us out in a situation like this. Not only would we be putting them at risk, but we'd eventually have to tell them what was going on, and that we can never do. It's too much even to plan on erasing their memory after it's over. Any risk in that respect is too much risk."
Greg nodded as he understood. They were to work silently, staying in the background. It was their first rule.
They took turns in the shower, and Alex managed to get himself dressed. He still looked almost ill, but was moving around and responding to the other guys appropriately. David whispered to Greg that he suspected Alex sensed there was still hope in finding Ken.
At this hour, the investigation across the hall was winding down. There was only one policeman in the hallway standing guard. The shattered door to the room had been removed. Ely made eye contact with him and told him not to "see" the other three exiting the room. As they passed, Greg glanced in the room, and flinched as he walked on down the hallway to the elevator.
In the restaurant they ordered lunch. This time Ely was markedly subdued in his enthusiasm for dining out. He ordered an extra glass of orange juice and an extra side dish for Alex. "We're trying to hurry some jet lag out of him," he told the waiter.
"So, Greg," David said. "Tell me about this figure you found that started this whole thing."
"Not really much to tell," Greg shrugged. "It looks like a man wearing a cape of some kind. Actually, I'm only assuming it's a man. Can't really tell. I copied it in detail, but it's in my notes in the room."
David nodded. "I'll have to get in the room and try to get my hands on your notes. They're in your back pack? I saw one laying on the floor. A brown one."
Greg shook his head. "Mine's in the room, on the floor somewhere, but it's blue. The brown one is Ken's, but you can take that one too. He has it copied in his notes. Either one will do."
"So what does it mean?" David asked.
Another shrug from Greg. "That's what's so weird about it. He added it to some documents that are written in hieroglyphics, and we can't figure out why he did that."
"Seems to me that it would blend in," Ely said.
"Oh, no, in fact it stands out," Greg said. "Hieroglyphics looks funny to us these days, but in reality it's just another alphabet. Anyone who can learn, say, Morse Code, or Braille by looking at it, can learn hieroglyphics. It's basic. We learned it in our first year at school. I can read and write it as easily as I can read and write English. So it's strange that someone would try to add a figure that isn't part of the alphabet and try to pass it off as being as ancient as the document he added it to."
"Have you spoken to anyone else about it? Your professor, maybe, or another archeologist?"
"No, we haven't," Greg said. "But when we first saw it, we didn't think much about it, except we saw it on a document that we'd already translated. When we checked our notes, we saw that both of us missed it the first time we saw it. We actually showed it to Father Pete - or whoever he is."
"Okay," David said. "So that's how he knew you were about to stumble on to something. That's when he started getting worried. And this was when?"
"Four days ago," Greg said. "We took the next day off, were transferred to the warehouse the day after, and had yesterday off. Today makes five days ago. But yesterday we were curious still, so we went back to the museum, and that`s when we saw him altering one of the documents."
David sat back. "So in the space of five days, he's tried to hit you and Ken twice. That shows he`s an amateur for sure. He didn`t give himself nearly enough time to plan properly, and as you can see, what plans he did make didn`t work."
"When you were with the Mossad, David, did you ever have to take anyone out?" Ely asked.
"Not within five days, definitely!" David said. "I was never assigned to assassinate anyone personally, but it has happened, and I have been on some teams. I can't think of any time when it was done that quickly. Normally it takes much, much longer than that. There's a lot of planning that goes on before hand. You have to put the subject under surveillance for quite a while. Learn his movements, his routines. Find out what about him is the most predictable. Then pick a time, place, and method when we'd be sure we got the right guy at the minimum risk to ourselves. We'd never hit anyone without taking those steps first. And even then, right before the hit, there are extra steps we take right at the last minute to verify that the subject is in fact the one we want. We learned that from Lillehammer."
"What happened then?" Greg asked.
"Long story, but the bottom line is we killed the wrong guy." Three pairs of eyes widened. "It turned out the guy who was killed wasn't the terrorist we were going after. He was a simple waiter who was innocent as could be, but had the bad luck to look remarkably like the guy we wanted."
"Damn!" Greg looked shocked. Ely rolled his eyes. Alex simply looked down at the table. They stayed silent while the waiter served their meal. This time Ely didn't pay any attention to him.
"So what's the next step?" Greg asked. He still didn't feel good not doing something directly related to finding Ken.
"Well, we're already here at the hotel," David said. "I should go to your room and get your notes. Then we can leave and go to another hotel and get settled in there. Once we're there, Enzo can tell the others where we are."
Greg shrugged, "I can go get my notes," he said. "I know right where to look."
David shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Greg. You didn't see the inside of your room very well. My blood is still splattered all over the place. It wouldn't be safe for anyone but me to go in."
"Oh yeah," Greg said.
"Will you be able to simply walk in?" Ely asked. "I know you can take care of the policeman in the hallway, but aren't there others inside?"
"There may be, but we can listen from across the hall and figure out if there are. I have a set of documents with me that identify me as a special investigator for Interpol. They'll let me in with those." He smiled to the others. "I even have a gun with me."
Ely's head snapped up. "A gun?!? What on earth for?"
David shrugged, "Just part of the cover story. Of course I don't need it, but it's part of the costume of an international detective working against terrorists. I'd be expected to have one, so I have one. So does Enzo."
After the meal, Ely again went down the hallway first, but this time when he made eye contact with the policeman not only did he tell him not to see the others, but he looked in the man's mind and saw that there was no one in the room at the moment. A team of investigators were on their way but right now the room was empty. He hurried the others into their room, shut the door, and told David.
"How long before the others get here?" David asked.
"I don't know," Ely said. "Hold on a minute." He stuck his head out the door for a few seconds and turned back to David. "He just notified the station five minutes ago that a forensics team had completed their job. He expects the next team in about 15 minutes."
"He told you that?" Greg asked, surprised.
"He doesn't know he did, but he did."
With only one policeman standing guard there was no need for David to make use of his investigator's credentials, so Ely made eye contact with the policeman once again, and David hurried into the room leaving their own door open. He grabbed a back pack and brought it to the door holding it wide open to Greg. "Don't touch the outside, Greg! It's covered with my blood. Just reach in and take what you need. Take it all if you'd like."
Greg reached in and took out Ken's notebooks. He figured that was all he'd need. The textbooks weren't necessary. He did the same with his own backpack. "Ken had a laptop we were using," he told David.
David put the backpacks back where they were and came back across the hall. "The laptop is smashed," he told Greg. "Don't worry, we can get you another one. Now, let`s get out of here."
They hurriedly packed up what they had, then David's cell phone rang again. This time the screen told him which of the two hotels Enzo had reservations for was the closest to them. It would take them about a half hour to navigate the downtown traffic. They took their suitcases and David grabbed the bundle of his bloody clothes. One more time with Ely making eye contact with the policeman and they left the room. On David's instructions they all changed their appearance again, and split up into pairs and took different elevators so no one would see the four of them together. Outside, David walked around to the back of the building and threw the bundle of his clothes into a dumpster.
On the way down the elevators, Greg asked Ely, "Won't that policeman get suspicious at you popping in and out of the room like that?"
Ely shook his head. "As far as he is concerned, he only saw me on the way to the restaurant, and on the way back. Seeing me that much is reasonable. He doesn't remember seeing me again after that."
Greg frowned and hugged Ely. "This is scary, babe!" It was one of those extremely rare moments when Ely couldn't think of anything to say.
They all rode to the hotel mostly in silence. Alex asked a few questions about what had been going on and David brought him up to date. Alex sighed deeply, reached out and patted David's shoulder, then withdrew back into himself and closed his eyes.
Their suite at the new hotel was on the ground floor. David told them that a ground floor suite was easier to escape from. Alex allowed himself to wake up enough to walk into the lobby looking normal. They sat down in the lobby for a few minutes while David walked around the corner. He came back and beckoned the guys to follow him. In the hallway he stopped them and pointed down to the end of the hallway to an exit door. "Always know where your exits are," he told them. He also walked them past the entrance to the hotel's restaurant and pointed out the entrance to the kitchen, telling them that all kitchens had an exit door.
A note was taped to the door of their suite. Ely took it down and opened it. He read it, looking perplexed. "It says, `The marsh is full, and new plants are springing up!'" The guys all looked at David.
"It's from Enzo," David said and pointed to the door. "It means there's someone in our room waiting for us, and he's okay." Greg and Ely looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads.
The man in the room looked up as the door slowly opened and David stuck his head inside. He appeared to be in his mid 20's. His skin was deeply bronzed, his eyes and hair black. Obviously a Latino, even his simple movements had an air of sophistication and elegance about them as he snapped his cell phone closed and stood up. David and the guys came into the room leading Alex between them. The man smiled. "Good afternoon, gentlemen," he greeted them. "I am Carlos, and I'm waiting for David and company. That would be all of you I presume?"
"I'm David," David answered and quickly introduced the others.
Carlos pointed to a door behind him. "This suite has a separate bedroom. Perhaps you should see to Alex." He gave Alex a quick hug and went and held the bedroom door open for them. Ely took Alex into the room and closed the door. Carlos told the others, "I took the liberty of ordering coffee, tea, and some snacks," and pointed to a small buffet on the other side of the room. Alex looked at the buffet warily and glanced back at Carlos. "Don't worry," Carlos told him, "Enzo has examined it and said it was all right. He told me of the seriousness of the situation." He looked at Greg, "You are holding up remarkably well, Greg. We are all very impressed. I'm so sorry to see it all happen, though. I hope I can help."
"Thanks," Greg said as David went to check out the buffet table himself. "I'm glad you're here. Um...who are you?"
Carlos smiled. "I completed the change in the early 1700's. In the early 1900's I went to the university and became an archeologist."
Greg's eyes lit up. "You did?"
"Yes, I did, although the length of the training was considerably shorter than yours! I spent some time after that studying the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures and sites. Quite amazing. I haven't worked on anything archeological in many years, but perhaps something will come back to me that you can use."
David finished checking under the buffet table. "Are you alone, Carlos?" he asked.
Carlos turned toward David. "I am alone here in Cairo. My partner's name is Juan. We were spending some time visiting friends in Italy when I got Enzo's call. I have a fairly extensive library back home in Brazil." He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course it doesn't do us any good here in Cairo, so Juan went back home. He had just called me to say he had arrived as you came in the door. If we need something that I have at home, Juan can look it up and fax or email it to us. He'll stay there as long as he needs to, and I will stay here with you." He looked at David. "We thought that would work out the best?"
"Sounds perfect, Carlos," David told him. "Thank you, and thank Juan for us, please." He poured himself a cup of coffee. The others did the same after they saw David. Even Carlos had waited for them to arrive before he touched the buffet. It was quickly getting to the point where no one wanted to do anything without David's approval first. They sat in the suite's living room, sipping.
"So Greg, what is this figure you found?" Carlos asked him. "It sounds fascinating, but morbid considering the circumstances."
Greg reached into the bag containing his and Ken's notes. He opened a notebook and showed the drawing to Carlos. "It's really simple," he said. "That's all there is to it."
Carlos looked at the drawing. "Hmm," he said, concentrating on the paper. "A man wearing what appears to be a cape."
"So far we're only assuming it's a man," Greg said. "I know it's a fresh drawing - Ken and I saw him working on it. But he did a great job of making it look old. It's smeared some and looks faded like the rest of the document does. That's why we can only assume it's a man."
Ely came back into the room and told the others that Alex was put back to bed and was sleeping. He poured himself a cup of tea and joined the others. Greg finished telling Carlos about the two documents they'd seen the figure on.
Carlos put the notebook on the coffee table and leaned back. "Well," he said, "my first inclination would be that this person is attempting a forgery." The others glanced at each other. "Oh yes, it has happened many times before. I'm sure you covered some of the more famous ones in your studies, Greg." Greg nodded. For the benefit of David and Ely, Carlos went on. "The idea is to make a name for yourself," he said. "What they do is first alter something, or add to it, as has been done to these documents. They put in something that they know no one will recognize or understand. Then they gain some status for themselves by being the first to `discover' it, and explain it. That leads to papers and articles, even a book that they can publish to make themselves famous within the archeological community. The lecture circuit alone is very lucrative. It can also lead to a prestigious position at a leading university." The others nodded their understanding, but Carlos shook his head. "What is illogical however, is why one of us would be interested in such a thing. Vanity is a trait of humans, not of us. So I must also conclude that my first inclination is wrong." He spread his hands and looked apologetically at the others. "I'm afraid that at the moment, I don't have a second inclination."
Greg sighed. "There's only two documents that we know of. That's not enough to go on. There's no pattern."
David asked Greg, "These documents in the museum - can anyone go look at them?"
Greg shook his head. "You have to have some credentials. Archeology or Egyptology students can go in if they have a proper contact, like we do with our professor and Dr. Rhys. Full fledged Archeologists and Egyptologists can get in. University staff, museum staff, maybe a few others."
"What's the difference between archeology and Egyptology?" David asked. "I thought they were one and the same."
"No," Greg said, "they're two different fields. You'll find that just about every Egyptologist has some extensive training in archeology, but you'll find archeologists all over who haven't trained in Egyptology." He looked at Carlos. "That was the purpose of Ken and me coming to Egypt. We've had a lot courses in Egyptology, and came here to get some experience. Initially, my first interest was in Egyptology, but I felt I'd get better, more well rounded training if I majored in Archeology."
"Absolutely," Carlos said. "These days, that's the best way to do it. I'm one of the archeologists who have no training in Egyptology. What I know about it today, I learned from reading the journals."
"So you have the paperwork you need to get back in the museum," David told Greg and then asked Carlos, "What about you? Do you have something that would get you in?"
Carlos said, "I updated my credentials about 20 years ago, I think. I'm still current with my documentation, even though I haven't worked actively for many years."
"When you go to the museum to look at the documents, what kind of security procedures do they have?" David asked Greg.
"You show your ID, sign in, and then you tell the attendants what documents you want. They're all labeled just like a library system. They even have a reference file like a regular library`s card file system. They bring you the documents and you have to sign them out and then back in."
"Is there any way at all to get Ely in?" David asked.
Greg nodded. "We can take a guest with us. Why? Can`t we just get into their heads and make them let us in, and then make them forget us when we leave?"
Ely put a hand on Greg's shoulder. "We can, and if we have to we will. But if we can get in the normal way, it's best to do it the normal way."
"That's correct," Carlos said. "Especially in this situation, I think. I'm sure this priest or whoever he may have working with him will also return to the museum. They too will read the staff, and it would be better if there are no blank spots in their memory." He looked to David, who nodded his agreement.
David said, "With the security they have, they'll undoubtedly have records. What you need to do is go back to the museum. Make someone look up all the times this priest came to the museum, as far back as you can go. It sounds like they'll also keep track of what documents he had pulled. You can have the same documents pulled, and see if this damn figure is on any of them. If you can find some more, maybe you can spot a pattern then."
Greg nodded. "Yeah! You're right! That would make it easier. Ken and I talked about how tough it would be to go over all those documents ourselves on the off chance we'd run across this figure again."
"How much time would we need?" Ely asked. "It still sounds like tedious work, and we are working against the clock. Ken has been missing for over 15 hours now."
"Actually," Carlos said, "it might not take as long as all that." The others looked at him. "You see," he went on, "attempting a forgery such as this is not something to be done lightly. Even drawing this simple figure on an ancient document isn't easy by any means. I'm sure there are other people coming and going from the museum, correct, Greg?" Greg nodded. "So he can only work on it when he's alone in the museum. He must make this drawing appear as though it was drawn centuries or thousands of years ago. It would take an extremely long time to draw even one figure and have it properly blend in with the rest of the document. I don't know how long this fellow has been in the museum fiddling with the documents, but my guess is that he can't have worked on too many. Besides, we may not need to see each and every one he's altered. We only need to see enough to establish a pattern."
"Okay," David said. "You three go the museum and see what you find out. Make sure you have your cell phones with you." He pointed to Ely. "When you're all in the museum, you, Ely, need to stay somewhat away from these two. You'll need to be with them to get in of course, but once they get you in, you need to try to act like you don't know them, and they don't know you. That way, if anyone tries anything at the museum, hopefully they'll ignore you, assuming you're not a part of what Greg and Carlos are doing, and you can at least get hold of me and let me know what's going on. When you're all together I'll use Ely as a contact person as I expect I'll be busy keeping in contact with several people. I'll stay here and keep an eye on Alex. Enzo and any others that need to, can contact me here."
The Central Nervous System, or CNS, is an amazing organ even in humans, but especially for Ken right now. The CNS in humans works independently of the brain and looks after the body on its own. It can't cover as much territory as the brain, and leaves it up to the brain to take care of the body's learning process, but steps in and takes over whenever the brain either doesn't know what's going on, or moves too slowly. A small child's brain, for instance, doesn't know that a stove is too hot to touch because it hasn't learned that yet. So when a small child reaches out to a hot stove, it is the CNS and not the brain that makes the child yank his hand away from the stove, thereby allowing only a minor burn. The child's brain would take the time to first ask itself what's going on, analyze the information, and then react, which takes too long and would allow the child to seriously burn his fingers. The child's CNS knows that so it takes over and acts in place of the brain. The CNS acts first and asks questions later.
In Ken's case, however, and in all of them, the CNS is able to "talk" to the brain, thereby giving all of them a significant advantage over humans. Right now, Ken's CNS was talking to his brain. In its own way, it was telling his brain, "Hey, every time you let this guy start waking up and move around, somebody whacks him up side his head again! So don't do that!" The brain agreed, and while it let Ken start to regain consciousness, it kept the rest of his body systems essentially shut down, so Ken was starting to wake up, but even his eyelids didn't flinch.
The brain doesn't take up the entire space inside the skull. It is smaller than the skull and the rest of the space in the skull is filled with fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain. The brain sits atop the cervical spine. The eyes and ears are the only other parts of the body that have a direct connection to the brain and it otherwise "floats" in this protective cushion of fluid. When a man hits his head by falling, or by getting hit for whatever reason, the head is violently jerked around. The brain then swings back and forth inside the skull, bumping up against the skull as it bounces around, but hopefully it moves very slowly through the fluid, and the only thing that happens is maybe a little dizziness or light headedness. If the man is hit hard enough, the brain can move enough to bounce around back and forth inside the skull, banging against the sides, and the man can "see stars" in front of his eyes. A violent enough blow to the head will cause the brain to slam up against the skull, which can cause bruising and swelling of the brain - very dangerous. In that case, the brain will try to prevent further injury by shutting parts of itself down, causing the man to lose consciousness, which is what has been happening to Ken for the past several hours.
But in that time his brain along with his CNS was "learning" that another blow to his head was coming soon. It also learned that Ken always got hit on the left side of his head. So Ken's brain allowed much of its blood to quickly drain out of his brain, flowing down into the rest of his body. That in turn, allowed his brain to literally shrink its size. The CNS then replaced the extra space with more cushioning fluid. Knowing that the blow would come to the left side of Ken's head, the CNS told the brain to shift its position within the skull so that instead of floating right in the middle, it now rested against the skull on the right side of Ken's head.
When the kitchen timer dinged on Omar's desk, he stood up and walked across the floor. Omar and Father Pete only tied Ken up as a secondary precaution. They knew that if Ken was awake, he could very well think of a way to escape. That's why they kept him unconscious. They knew the constant whacks to Ken's head would prevent him from waking up without causing the permanent damage that would befall a human.
Omar walked up to Ken, grabbed the lead pipe, and whacked Ken on the left side of his head again. He put the pipe down and returned to his desk. He re-set the kitchen timer for another two hours, then lay down on a cot next to the desk and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
The blow jerked Ken's head to the right. When the left side of Ken's skull headed toward his brain, the brain only bumped the skull instead of slamming against it. If Ken were completely awake, he would have felt only a bit of lightheadedness. But this time he didn't lose consciousness. While Omar slept, Ken's brain and CNS continued to allow him to regain more consciousness while outwardly still sitting perfectly still.
What it didn't do yet however, was allow Ken to think about Alex.
After everyone left, David went to check on Alex, who was still sleeping fitfully. He went back to the buffet and fixed himself a snack. He sat and thought about what was going on. He understood that he had been saddled with the responsibility to run this operation, and was glad to do what he could to help, but he'd much rather be out doing the running around himself. That's how he was trained after all. He felt restless sitting in the hotel room. Almost like he was doing nothing, but, he sighed, that was the only way to do it.
A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. He went to the door, and through the peephole saw a smiling young man - young looking at least - standing in the hallway. He kept the chain across the door and opened it just the couple of inches the chain allowed, in case the visitor wouldn't be welcome. They were very practiced at it: eye contact was made, mental blocks came down, identities were verified, and the blocks went back in place. David smiled and let the man in. "Hello, Edward! Come on in. Nice to meet you!" He stood aside and Edward came in the room and they shook hands.
"Nice to meet you too, David, although I wish it were under better circumstances." David nodded and shrugged. "And please call me Ed."
David took Ed to the buffet and Ed fixed himself a sandwich. "So you're the private investigator," David said. "Thank you for coming, definitely!"
Ed waved his hand, dismissing the thanks as they sat on the sofa. "Glad to - glad to." He looked around. "Is Greg here? I'd like to meet him."
"He's at the museum with Ely and another archeologist, Carlos."
"Is it true he's only 100? This is some kind of situation for someone so young to get into!"
"He's just barely over 100," David said. "And his friend, Ken, isn't even 70 years old yet. You're right about that! We're needed here for sure."
Well," Ed nodded and spoke as he ate, "as John - my partner - and I suspected, there is no Father Petricello on staff at any religious institution in Cairo. Nor is there any Petricello listed in any of the phone directories." They both shrugged. This news wasn't surprising, but did need to be verified. "We had a talk with this Dr. Stephen Rhys, who insists there is a Father Pete, that he's known him for a couple of years, and that they're friends. He gave us Father Pete's cell phone number, but we haven't called it since there is no way we can trace it. Didn't want to alert the man that we're that close to him." David nodded his agreement. "Dr. Rhys was reluctant to tell us where this priest worked, probably because professionals protect each other that way. Not surprising at all."
David asked, "This Dr. Rhys doesn't know why you're looking for the priest does he?"
"No, no," Ed shook his head. "We appeared to him as college students. Journalism majors, writing a story about prominent archeologists working in the area. Stroked his ego a bit, and according to his secretary, we're not the first or last journalism students to interview him. He's probably already forgotten about us. We read him and he was telling the truth, but it turns out he's never been to this priest's church, and doesn't even know where it is. John is watching him now, and will try to get to everyone else he comes in contact with in case this priest pays him a visit." He handed David a slip of paper with Father Pete's cell phone number on it.
"Good work, Ed," David said. He looked at the number, and then put the slip of paper in his pocket. "You're right about this number though. Doesn't do us a lot of good unless we can trace it, and we can't. But I'll keep it handy anyway. We'll try to quietly find out who it's registered to and all, and at least have that much information, although I bet it`s registered to a non-entity."
Ed nodded and shrugged dismissively. "I'm planning on talking to their professor next, but I don't expect any more information from him. It would be helpful if there was someone available to keep an eye on him too."
David nodded. "There are a few others here, I think. Enzo will get in touch with one of them and have him watch the professor."
Ed stood and held out another slip of paper to David. "Well, I'll head on over to the university. Here's its address. Let me know if anything else comes up." David read the address out loud, and as Ed left the room the unseen Enzo called someone to go to the univeristy and keep a watch on the professor.
Ely felt like a babe in the woods. The vaults in the museum were completely foreign to him. He only hoped that fact wouldn't be too apparent to anyone else who came in. At the moment, he and Carlos and Greg were alone in the room. They had changed their appearance and clothes again, in case anyone came in who could recognize them. The attendants had looked through the records and Carlos was right. Father Pete had only signed out five documents during the last several months; as far back as the records the attendants had on hand went. They ordered those five plus ten others to make the five they really wanted look like a random selection. Carlos and Greg kept the five, and across the room Ely sat alone and tried to appear interested in the other documents.
"This is the first one we saw," Greg told Carlos. "It has to do with Cleopatra's strategy to make Egypt stronger by joining with Rome."
Carlos nodded. "I know that story well," he said. "I don't recognize this writing, but I know that story." He looked closely at the figure and shook his head. "You're right about this thing meaning nothing. Very odd that he would choose a place like this to add it."
Greg passed over another document. "This is the one we saw him tampering with. We watched him for a couple minutes through the shelves over there. We saw him put the glass case back on and screw it back together."
Carlos looked at the date on the label attached to the glass. "Hmmm, about a millennium apart from the other one. What's this one about?" he asked Greg.
Greg tapped the glass. "This is during Rameses II's reign."
"Ah yes," Carlos said. "The one who was forced to let the slaves go and all the plagues, right?"
"Well, it's debatable whether or not it was really him, or even that the exodus actually happened. There's no archeological evidence to support it. At least not yet. But this document here isn't talking about that, it's talking about the peace treaty he signed with the Hittites."
"A peace treaty?" Carlos asked. "That's all?"
"Well, it's said that it was the first peace treaty in history."
Carlos nodded. "That's debatable too. Alright." He put that document aside. They spread out the other three in front of them. "My goodness! There's almost nothing on this one!" The document in front of him was in pieces, faded, smeared and stained.
"Yeah," Greg said. "It would take a while to translate it. You have to compare what figures you see with other documents of the same time period." He turned the glass over. On the back was a synopsis of what the document would translate to. "This translation was done by Egyptologists well over a century ago. It could be that the document was in better condition then." They both leaned to take a closer look.
"Hmmm," Carlos mumbled while reading the synopsis. "Egypt was split into two separate countries, and is now reunited under a Pharaoh named `Mentuhotep.' Started a period of classical art and literature." He looked at Greg and shrugged.
"It was a good time for Egypt," Greg explained. "It was going down the tubes and it was in trouble. This guy brought it all back together and made it bigger and better. It's happened several times in Egypt's history."
They turned the glass over again to look at the document. The figure was barely recognizable; half covered by some kind of dark stain. "I hate to admit it," Carlos said, "but this guy does an outstanding forgery. Except that he keeps drawing the figure between the lines. There's plenty of blank spaces on this document to add anything where it would blend in better."
The other two documents weren't in much better shape. On one they almost didn't find the figure, as it was even more faded than the rest of the document. The oldest document talked about the very formation of Egypt as a state. The other described Egypt's conquest of Nubia, and mentioned other conquests that expanded Egypt`s influence on the world. "You say you thought this figure represented a religious person?" Carlos asked Greg.
"That was just a gut reaction from the first one. I don't know for sure."
"Learn to trust your gut feelings, Greg. Being one of us, your gut feelings are more reliable than a human's, and many humans' gut reactions are usually correct. That's why so many crimes are solved because of a police officer's `hunch.' They learn to trust their gut reactions. So let`s assume this does represent a religious figure."
"That makes sense," Greg nodded. "But it still doesn't explain this."
"Well, let's take it one step at a time and see what we've got," Carlos said, and sat back in his chair, ticking facts off on his fingers. "All five documents seem to be talking about significant times in Egypt's history. On all documents the figure is drawn in the same place, meaning it's drawn between the lines, not blended in with the rest of the document. These five documents appear to cover almost all of ancient Egypt's history. So it would appear that this priest wants us to think that whatever this figure represents, it was present throughout Egypt's history. So it certainly could be religious, as religion was present the whole time. And religion was about the only thing that was present the entire time."
"And," Greg said, "the Pharaohs all saw themselves as living gods. Some of them even had ceremonies declaring themselves to their people to be a living god."
"Were the Pharaohs who were in power during the time these documents were written ones who had these ceremonies? Maybe this drawing represents a ceremonial figure."
Greg thought about it. "I know Rameses II did it," he sighed heavily. "But I don't know if any of these others did. I'm sorry."
"Not at all, Greg," Carlos reassured him. "There's an awful lot of history here, and you haven't had nearly enough time to learn it all. I don't really know any of it."
"So we're stuck?" Greg was disappointed.
"Well, we're not done yet. We need to concentrate and think. Maybe something will come to you that you think you forgot. Now let's see," and he leaned back a little further. Greg thought he was going to put his feet up on the table.
"If this is a religious figure, it may explain its strange position on the documents. Religious figures, especially religious leaders, are seen as above the common people. Even today's religious leaders go to great lengths to ensure they are seen and treated as superior to everyone else. So rather than this figure simply being between the lines, it may be intended to signify someone who was above everyone else at the time. Separate from them." Greg stayed silent. Carlos seemed to be almost talking to himself. "They already had a god they worshipped throughout their history, and already had many drawings and statues of him. So this figure is someone else. Who could have existed in Egypt from its beginning to its end, who wasn't originally included in any of its documents, but in this so called priest's mind would warrant the exact same representation on each..." suddenly Carlos bolted upright in his chair. Ely glanced up from his table, frowning. Carlos's color had completely drained from his face. He had one hand clamped over his mouth, and that hand was shaking. He looked at Greg, almost in a panic. Ely stood up, wondering if he should join them.
Greg almost choked. He reached out and grabbed Carlos's shoulders. "What?!? Are you okay? Carlos! What is it man!?!"
Carlos's voice was high pitched, squeaky. He slammed his palm down on the table. "That figure, Greg!! Don't you see?!? Oh my God in Heaven! That figure is US!!"
Ken's Central Nervous System was talking to his brain but it wasn't talking to Ken. So Ken couldn't figure out why he couldn't move. Couldn't even open his eyes. He decided that he was dreaming and this was all a part of it. He vaguely remembered Greg leaving the room after telling him not to say a word. Through the mists of what he considered a dream, he remembered the bellboy (or was it someone else?) coming into the room. The same way anyone could have dreams about being naked in public without anyone around noticing, they had sex in the dream when sex was the last thing on Ken's mind.
He remembered a run down the hallway while he was naked (See? A dream!), and jumping out of a ten story window. Doing stupid things always works in dreams anyway. Anyone can jump out of windows in dreams. Anyone can fly in dreams. One can even breathe underwater in dreams. He remembered getting up off the sidewalk and chasing after the bellboy. He remembered the park, that it was dark, running through the trees, the stone wall, a shadow in the wall moved as he ran past it, the blow to his head, and then nothing except that he hasn't woken up yet. He thought mainly about the dream, but he didn't yet think about Alex.
His CNS drained the blood from his brain, shrank its size a bit, and moved it back to one side of his head, getting ready for another whack to the other side of his head. Ken's mind went back into limbo.
Ely tried to call David but didn't realize that cell phones didn't work deep in the vaults. It seemed to take forever for the attendants to come and have Greg sign the documents back in. The three of them hurried up into the lobby of the museum. Ely didn't really know what was going on, but Carlos and Greg seemed too agitated to make them stop and explain. Carlos seemed to Ely to be in a near panic. While hurrying through the lobby Ely tried again to call David but got his voice mail. On David's earlier instructions he didn't leave any kind of message that the wrong person may be able to listen to. They rushed out of the museum and stood on the sidewalk to grab a taxi.
In the gift shop a young man saw the three of them rushing out of the building and wondered what had happened somewhere in the museum. He too went outside to hail a taxi. His curiosity became alarm when he made eye contact with one of the three and couldn't see anything at all in his mind. The guys were too agitated to notice that eye contact was made at all, and didn't notice the guy who came out of the museum with them.
In the taxi they raised the partition between the front and back seats so the driver couldn't hear. "Now what on earth did you see?" Ely demanded.
"That figure represents us!!" Carlos said. He was still pale, fear evident in his eyes. "That priest is drawing us!!"
Ely looked from Greg to Carlos and back again. "Are you sure?" He and Greg looked at Carlos.
"I'm certain," Carlos said. To Greg he said, "Think about it. Who else could have possibly been present throughout all of Egypt's history? Us! The figure is drawn as though it is standing away from the `action,' not taking part, but observing. Who acts in that manner? Us! The documents all represent significant times in Egypt's history, major turning points even. Who else would have made sure to have been there? Us! Was this forgery, this figure, drawn by a human? No! It was drawn by one of us! No human would have known we were around. Only we would know. It can't be anything else! It's us!!"
Ely was staring straight ahead, deep in thought. Greg took out his own cell phone and called David, he too, getting David's voice mail. Carlos slumped back in his seat, lapsing into deep thought of his own. Greg looked back and forth at both of them.
They sat in silence for about ten minutes when Ely's cell phone rang. All three of them jumped at the sound of it. Ely almost dropped his phone trying to fumble it open when he saw on the screen that it was David calling. He put the phone to his ear. "David!" he almost yelled into the phone, "I'm afraid we have some news no one is going to like..."
David cut him off. "So do I, Ely! You're being followed. Don't come back to the hotel. Go somewhere else, or just drive around until I call you back!"
"But Dav..." and the phone went dead.
Omar had just finished whacking Ken's head again, so Ken wasn't able to hear just yet. Omar's phone rang as he walked back to the desk. He flipped it open. "Yes, Pete? Did you get anywhere?"
"I'm following them now. I'm sure it's them. None of them look like Greg, but I expected that. The important thing is that all three of them are together!"
"They went back to the museum then?"
"Yes, Omar, they did. I knew it was them when I couldn't read them. They're in a taxi now, heading east, towards you. I know it's a risk, but we can't lose this opportunity to catch them all together again. Take the car and drive around the area. I'll keep calling you with directions. Maybe you can run into us and then both of us will follow them. We'll find where they're staying now and think of a way to take them out there."
"I'll do that right now. I just hit Ken again. He should be out for at least another couple of hours." Omar slapped his phone closed. He left the room at the same time Ken's CNS was telling his brain that it could wake up some more now.
It was all the guys could do to keep from turning around to look for the car following them. David had told them some things back in the hotel. Among others he gave them some tips on surveillance techniques. One important thing to do when you realize you're being followed is not to let your tail know he's been spotted. If he knows you're on to him he could break off the chase and leave, and then you don't know where he went or when he'll be back. Or he could either call in backup, or take the risk to hit you right away.
Instead you try to confuse him by abandoning your planned destination and lead him on what amounts to a wild goose chase. Lead him in a meandering path for as long as possible or go to a public place with lots of witnesses. Either way you wait until your own backup can get to you and take care of the tail. So they told the driver to take them to a place Greg knew would take at least an hour to get to. They sat still and tried to concentrate on looking straight ahead. They didn't even glance at each other; each of them lost in his own thoughts.
Greg couldn't remember when he'd felt so completely useless. He sat between Ely and Carlos and kept glancing at them. They were both lost in their own thoughts. From his position he could see the rear view mirror in the front seat. He concentrated on it; trying to find the car that was following them. Downtown traffic was the same everywhere and he couldn't pick out any car that looked like it was trying to stay behind them. How did David know anyway? For that matter Greg was amazed at how quickly Carlos had figured the whole thing out. He'd only looked at those documents once and figured it all out! Greg and Ken spent several days going over them and didn't have a clue. He felt like he was just the spare tire; needed at times but otherwise was only in the way. He felt Ely's hand on his leg.
"My love," Ely said softly. "You need to try to understand. We'll do all in our power to find Ken and bring him back. But if Carlos is right - and I believe he is - then it is no longer a matter of just finding Ken. We must now also find this priest. He can't stay here any longer. He must go."
Greg nodded. He'd thought the same thing himself, but only briefly. His priority was still Ken. He felt responsible. He felt like he'd let Ken and Alex down.
Now Carlos leaned over and spoke to Greg. "Greg, none of this is your fault. I know what you must be thinking, and it sounds like there was nothing you could do. Nothing Ken could have done. This is all the doing of that fool priest or whoever he really is. If anything, you and Ken are to be commended for figuring out that something was amiss in the first place, and calling on Ely and Alex." He patted Greg's other leg. "Please don't feel bad. Myself and Juan, and I'm sure Ely and Alex have been through things like this before. You're doing fine but Ely is right. We now have two jobs to do, and right now," he glanced up at Ely, "we are the only three who know that." Ely nodded.
"Doesn't it sound like if we find one we'll find the other?" Greg asked. "To me it's obvious that wherever Ken is, Father Pete has him."
"I'm sure that's the case," Ely said and Carlos nodded agreement. "We can only hope anyway but it does sound like both goals will be accomplished at the same time."
They drove on for another 15 minutes or so when Ely's phone finally rang. It was David. Ely flipped his phone open but David started talking even before Ely greeted him.
"Ely! Quickly! Let me talk to Greg." Ely silently handed the phone to Greg.
"Yeah, David," Greg said.
"Greg, you know more of the city than anyone right now. Can you tell me where you are?"
Greg looked around. "We're really close to the university. Maybe a half mile west of it, heading right for it."
"Hang on," Greg waited a couple minutes. "Okay, now listen closely. Right before the university there's a major intersection. I don't know the street name, but there are restaurants on all four corners."
"Yeah, I know it."
"Good! Turn left at that intersection. Go two blocks and turn left again so you're heading back west. Drive very slowly, as though you're looking for an address or something. You're going to pass a building that's being torn down. Trucks all around on both sides of the street. Pass that building, and when you see the traffic behind you get stopped, drive around the corner and get the hell out of your car as fast as you can. Duck into a store or restaurant somewhere and change your appearance. Then all three of you come out of the store a couple minutes apart from each other, get into separate taxis, and come back here. Got that?" Greg repeated the info back to David while glancing at Ely and Carlos. David broke the connection and Greg shrugged.
At the next stop light Carlos leaned forward and lowered the partition to speak to the driver. As he hoped, the driver turned to look, and Carlos made eye contact with him and gave him the instructions. "No sense in wasting time trying to explain things to him," Carlos told the others after he raised the partition back up.
At the intersection before the university the driver turned left. As the taxi made the turn, Ely stole a glance out his window when he faced the traffic that had been behind him. There were many cars on the street, and Ely had no idea which one was following them. He shook his head.
Their taxi turned left again and the guys immediately saw the building. Trucks were along both sides of the street. Next to the building was an alley with a fully loaded dump truck parked in it. They drove very slowly down the street as instructed. After they drove past the dump truck, it suddenly went into gear, the rear raised up and dumped it's entire load, blocking the street. Cars screeched to a halt and people began yelling and pointing. The traffic was jammed back to the intersection. The taxi following the guys was in the middle of the jam, unable to move. When the traffic stopped, Enzo broke eye contact with the truck's driver and casually strolled into the nearest store. He turned and pretended to be looking at the wares by the window while watching the stalled taxi.
Their own taxi turned the corner and pulled over to the curb in front of a restaurant. Greg slid his debit card thru the slot and punched in the fare plus a generous tip. The guys hurried out of the car and into the restaurant. They went directly into the bathroom. Luckily the bathroom was empty and the guys changed their appearance.
"We can't change our clothes, though," Ely said.
"Let's hurry, in case whoever was following us tries to catch up on foot," Carlos told them.
They let Carlos go first so he would get back to the hotel and explain the figure to David. They watched him hail another taxi going the other way and get into it. They tried to watch, and as far as they could tell no other car took off after the taxi like it was trying to follow. They knew that didn't mean one didn't, but at least it wasn't obvious.
Ely told Greg to go next, so he could get back to the hotel in case David had questions about the figure. As Greg's taxi drove off Ely again tried to watch, and only hoped that if someone tried to follow Greg, he'd spot him. After another few minutes Ely grabbed a taxi and headed for the hotel.
Enzo watched from the store window as a man got out of the stalled taxi, obviously upset, and went to the curb. Enzo watched him pull out a cell phone and make a call. He put on his sunglasses and left the store to walk to his own rented car around the corner. He assumed the guy was calling for someone to come pick him up. That could be interesting but at least he'd abandoned following the guys. Enzo walked right past the man. He didn't worry about making eye contact. His shades were heavily tinted and he knew the guy couldn't see his eyes. But Enzo could see the man's eyes and what he saw behind them was a blank. Enzo got into his car and waited to see who would come pick the man up while he reported in to David.
`Aww shit!' Greg thought. He sat in the back of his cab and frowned. They'd stopped and been sitting still for five minutes now. Greg stepped out of the cab, and as far down the street as he could see, no traffic was moving. They'd created a traffic jam on purpose earlier, and now he was in a real one. Behind him and at the side streets, nothing was moving. He had no idea why or how long it would take to get moving again, and wondered if Carlos and Ely were caught up in it, too. He pulled out his cell phone and called David but got his voice mail again.
Finally he decided against waiting in the cab, as he was restless enough as it was and couldn't take just sitting in the seat and doing nothing. He pulled out his debit card and paid the driver. At the curb he looked across the street but there was only an office building and what looked like a hardware store. He turned to walk through the building he was standing in front of but saw that it was boarded up. `Damn!' he thought and started walking down the sidewalk around the building. Apparently, the building took up the entire block. He walked completely around it to the street on the other side. Across that street was a bank and a fairly large outdoor café. About half the tables outside were full. This street was also jammed up. Greg walked between cars to the café.
He bought himself a soda and sat at one of the outdoor tables. He remembered David telling them to always think about blending in and he scrunched down in his chair a little so he wouldn't stand out. He was somewhat nervous sitting by himself. David had told them all how important it was to stay together; thus creating a more difficult target. He didn't like the idea of being separated from the others and told himself to stay alert. As David had said, he was sitting in an area where there were plenty of witnesses so no one should try anything even if they did know he was there. He hoped traffic would start moving again before the café emptied out and left him completely alone.
He called David again and got his voice mail again. He called Ely next and Ely answered. "I'm stuck, babe," Greg told him what was going on. "Did you make it to the hotel?"
"Not yet but I'm close I think," Ely said. "No traffic jam where I am."
"I tried calling David twice but got his voice mail."
"It sounds like you're good where you are. I suppose you should keep trying to catch David. I'll try calling him, too. Try not to worry. No one has seen you the way you look now anyway. Hopefully you won't be there too long. If traffic starts moving again, of course take another taxi, but otherwise I'd say to stay there and wait until you hear from me or David."
"Okay, babe. Call me right away if you hear anything. It's damn frustrating just sitting here."
"I understand, my love but there's nothing else you can do at this point. David said that in his line of work patience was a virtue. I guess you'll have to learn it fairly quickly. I'll try to call David and then Carlos. You should keep your phone line clear so we can get hold of you easily."
"All right, babe. Let me know as soon as you hear anything." He broke the connection and snapped his phone closed; leaving it on the table so the sun could get to the solar cells and keep the battery charged. He sighed deeply and looked around. No one seemed to be paying any attention to him. Cars were backed up and sitting still in the street. People were walking by; some stopping in the café, and some going into the bank. Across the street the sidewalk was nearly empty as there was nothing going on there. The building was closed. A sign outside identified it as a theatre along with identifying the construction company that was doing renovations. Other than that there was nothing to see. Or do. Greg started drumming his fingers on the table, his frustration growing.
After a short conversation between the two of them, Ken's CNS and brain decided it was time for more input. His brain let at least some of his senses start to wake up and function. His hearing came first. His ears became acutely aware of their surroundings but there was no real sound to hear. A muffled group of noises told him they were coming from a street outside. The last time he had almost woken up his ears did register the sound of breathing, as though someone was sleeping close by. This time there was nothing. His nose registered a smell mainly of dust, and a little bit of a musty odor which told him he was inside somewhere that needed cleaning, like a basement or store room. There was no smell of human sweat, cologne, or after shave, which his brain took to mean that most likely there was no one else in the room. His eyes still wouldn't open. His brain hadn't decided whether or not it was safe enough to show any outward signs of his regained consciousness. The rest of his body remained numb.
Ken thought back through the years and remembered when he'd felt like this before: being able to hear and smell and think, but nothing else. He remembered it was one of the last feelings he'd had as a human. It started with a splitting headache and then turned to the same numbness he was feeling now. It was when he had the stroke that ended his human life.
Could it be happening again? But that was supposed to be impossible. He couldn't get sick anymore. He was supposed to be immune from that kind of thing. So why couldn't he feel his body? He had no idea what was going on and that thought began to scare him.
He remembered the dream he had of jumping out the hotel window, but now it didn't seem like a dream at all. Instead it was a vivid memory. So it had happened! The bellboy was real! He wasn't their real bellboy but someone else. One of them. And he had tried to trick him into drinking his blood! His memory of the event came rushing back into his head and suddenly he was afraid. That and the fact that he was numb again made him almost panic.
Damn he wished Alex could be with him!!
David heard the yell from the bedroom and almost jumped off the sofa. "Hang on! Something's happening!" he said into his cell phone and dropped it on the sofa. He started across the room when the bedroom door was wrenched open and Alex stumbled out partially wrapped up in the bed's blankets.
"I got him!" Alex yelled, his eyes wide open searching the room. He saw David and started towards him. "I feel him! I feel him! He's still here!!" Alex was laughing now almost hysterically. He stumbled over and grabbed David. "He's still here!" he repeated, half laughing, half crying. "He's nearby! I feel it! Oh God! He's still here!" Alex almost collapsed into David's chest. David had to grab Alex and hold him up. He half dragged Alex to a chair and sat him down. He leaned down and untangled the blanket from Alex's legs.
"Alex! Calm down! Quickly! Which way is he?" David knew that although Alex could now feel Ken in his mind, he still couldn't pinpoint exactly where he was. The best he could do was get a mental line-of-sight. He could tell what direction Ken was in but not specifically where Ken was. Still, it was much better than knowing nothing. And it told them that Ken was still with them, that he hadn't been taken out, and that he was nearby. There was hope now, more so than ever before. David pulled a frantic Alex out of his chair and led him to the room's window. He opened the window and Alex leaned so far out that David had to grab his arms to keep him inside.
Alex pointed down the street in a general direction to the east. "That way!" he said, his arm outstretched.
David rushed to the coffee table in the sitting area, grabbed the city map, and brought it back to the window. He found on the map where the hotel was and then turned the map around so it was oriented to the direction they were looking. He took a highlighting pen and looked exactly where Alex was pointing, then drew a straight line from their street all the way through the city. Now they had Ken's whereabouts narrowed down considerably. David rushed back to his phone. "Ed!" he said into his phone. "We got him! Alex locked in on Ken! Here's what you need to do. Call John and you two get hold of the others..." He gave instructions to Ed, and as he finished, there was a knock on the door. He went and opened the door and Carlos rushed in.
"David, we have news!" Carlos said hurriedly.
"So do we, Carlos!" David said. "We have Ken! Alex felt him!"
"David!" Carlos said forcefully. "Listen to me! We need to find the priest as well as Ken! We have to take him out!" At that, David stopped in mid step and stared at Carlos. Even Alex turned from the window. Carlos told them what they'd learned at the museum.
"Oh shit!" Alex moaned. "That's the guy who has Ken? Oh no!" He sunk into a chair once again looking defeated.
David stood with one hand on Alex's shoulder and told Carlos what they needed to do. Carlos could go by himself, David said. David would take Alex with him and keep an eye on him as well as keep him from staying in the room by himself. David opened his cell phone again and called Ely. Ely was very close by in a taxi and David told him to turn the taxi around and head back to the east. Ely told David that Greg was stuck in traffic so David called Greg next.
Greg tried to appear relaxed but jumped anyway when his phone rang. He snatched it up and flipped it open after checking the screen. "Yeah, David. Did something happen?"
"You bet it did, Greg! Alex got a bead on Ken. He's definitely still with us."
"Ohhh man! That's a relief!"
"Well, Alex got a bead on him but we still don't know exactly where yet. We still need to find him."
"Dammit! And I'm stuck here! I can't do anything until this fucking traffic starts moving!"
"You don't need a taxi right now, Greg. They move too fast. You'd need to start walking anyway. I bet you're right along the line-of-sight we got. Tell me exactly where you are. What street are you on?" Greg looked at the sign on the corner and told David what intersection he was close to. "Okay, hold on a second." David looked at his map and found the univeristy they were close to earlier. He ran his finger along the map in the direction back to the hotel and found the street. "Okay, Greg, you're in a great position. Now listen carefully. You need to start walking to the east. You need to walk ten blocks, then turn right and walk ten blocks back down the next street. We have other people taking other ten block segments so we have the whole line-of-sight covered. You're looking for any conceivable place where Ken could be. You need to put yourself in our adversary's head. If it was you who had taken someone and needed to hide him - where would you do it? Inside the city the options are limited. Obviously crowded places are out. What you're looking for is any place that has very few people in it. The fewer the better. If you can find a place that's empty of people, that's the best shot. If you run into anyplace like that call me immediately. If you get my voice mail call Ely or Carlos. Then all you do is sit tight and wait for us to get there. Don't try to do anything on your own - it's too dangerous. We need to go after him in numbers or we'll blow the whole thing. So keep your eyes and mind open to any possibility. Got that?"
"Yeah, David. I'll get started right now." Greg snapped his phone closed. He stood up and dropped his soda in the trash can and looked down the street as though he could see ten blocks ahead. He couldn't see but he didn't worry about it. He was just glad to be doing something. He started walking to the curb and then froze in mid stride; his mouth open and eyes wide. `Oh my God!' he thought.
He was looking across the street. `I've been staring at it this whole fucking time! I've just been sitting here doing nothing and it's been right in front of me!' He was looking at the building across the street. The theatre. It was a huge building. It was closed. It was being renovated. And it was empty!
Greg grabbed his cell phone and flipped it open. He got David's voice mail, but wasn't surprised about that. Everyone was calling David. But he dialed Ely and got his voice mail too. He angrily punched in the numbers to Carlos and almost threw his phone down to the sidewalk when he got Carlos's voice mail too. He knew David had told them not to leave messages in each other's voice mail in case someone found a way to tap into their account. But dammit, this was important! He knew there were others in town but didn't know who, and didn't know any of their phone numbers. He tried all three of the guys again with the same result. He stood on the sidewalk trembling in anger and a feeling of helplessness. David told them not to go into anything alone but wait for backup. He understood the importance of backup now. The bomb in the hotel room convinced him of that.
He decided it wouldn't hurt to at least scout around the building. Maybe he could find a place to get in quietly. The entrance he was facing was padlocked so he forgot about that one. He crossed the street between the still stalled cars in traffic and started to slowly walk around the building. There were exits on all sides. He tentatively tried each one; finding the door either locked or boarded up.
One side of the building faced an alley. Two exit doors were on that side, and one of the doors was labeled, "Stage Entrance," in three different languages. It was a double door, with one half missing and was boarded up, but a few of the boards were missing. In the alley the noise from the street was muffled. Greg put his ear against one of the openings and concentrated.
He heard nothing. His senses were on full alert now. He was sure if someone was inside he would hear any noise made: footsteps, a chair scraping on the floor - anything. But he heard nothing. It was entirely possible that no one was inside at all. No way was a construction crew inside working or he'd hear that for sure. But maybe Ken was in there after all. If he was unconscious he wouldn't be making any noise anyway. But would he be in there alone without a guard on him? Greg stood completely still for five minutes; his eyes scanning the alley in case anyone came around the corner, his ear against the opening, straining to hear any sound at all.
Okay, he thought to himself. Either Ken is in there alone and unconscious, or whoever is with him isn't making any noise at all (not likely) or the building is empty. Greg doubted his luck would be so good that he would find Ken not just in the first place he looked, but that he would find him in a building he was right next to at the time. He reached up and tentatively tried one of the boards. It was solid. He tried another, and another. Finally he tried one that was loose. Not only loose but it didn't really make any noise when he wiggled it. He wiggled it some more and it came loose. It separated from the frame with only the tiniest squeak. Greg took it down and then listened at the opening for another five minutes still hearing nothing.
He tried the board on top of the first one that had come loose. It wasn't as solid as the others. Greg held his breath and yanked on the board. The frame of the door was apparently very old. Unpainted for several years, the wood was rotting away. The nails on the board didn't hold at all. It came off the frame easily but with a little more noise than the first one. Greg's heart was pounding in his chest as he spent some more time listening. If anyone was in there, and the noise from the boards alerted him, he would surely make some noise himself as he made his way to this entrance to investigate. Greg still heard nothing at all. The opening was large enough now for him to stick his head and shoulders into. When he did, the background noise from the street was muffled further. He listened and concentrated as hard as he could. He felt like he would hear a mouse running on the floor if there was one.
The silence encouraged him. One more board and he could squeeze his way in. He took hold of the next board and discovered that while the nails seemed to be solid the board itself wasn't. One yank and the board noisily split in two. Greg froze. He tensed; ready to take off running at the first sound he heard. This time he listened for over ten minutes without hearing anything. He looked around him again and the alley was still empty. He stood off to the side and tried one more time to call any of the three guys, hoping one of them would answer and tell him not to go inside until they all got there. Again only voice mails. He turned his phone's ringer off and set it to vibrate. That's all he would need, he thought, to be inside and have his phone ring in that empty building to echo all over the place. He took a deep breath, and after one more look in the alley he squeezed his way through the boards.
Once inside he froze. He stood perfectly still and tried to control his breathing while he let his eyes get used to the darkness and listened for anything at all. With every muscle in his body tensed, he was ready to turn and bolt back out the opening at the slightest provocation.
It didn't take his eyes long at all to adjust to the darkness. One reason, he was surprised and frightened to learn, was because the darkness wasn't total. There was a light coming from somewhere inside! To his left a set of stairs led up out of sight, and light was spilling down the stairs! So someone was in here! Or at least someone had been in here earlier. To his right was a hallway and several doors. Anything and anyone could be behind the doors. He figured they were dressing rooms for the performers. But his concern was the stairs.
All their senses were heightened, so while Greg couldn't see in the dark as well as a cat he could certainly see well enough to make it to those stairs. The floor was surprisingly clean of debris. Nothing to trip on or kick accidentally and make noise. He was afraid that if someone were at the top of the stairs, they'd hear his heart pounding. He took one step to test the floor. No squeaks; it was solid. Each step he took was slow, deliberate, tentative. It took him several minutes to tip toe about fifteen feet to the stairs.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs for several more minutes listening. Then he peaked around the corner and up to the top. There was only about seven steps. At the top of the steps was a small platform. He couldn't see to either side of the platform, but over the platform was a solid wall, with another platform of some kind on top of that.
He took slow, deep breaths, trying to stay calm in spite of his racing heart. He looked closely at the stairs. They were definitely not as old as the rest of the place. In fact, they looked fairly new! They weren't painted; only bare boards, but new looking nail heads glinted in the light. If they were new they must be solid! Greg put one foot on the first step and slowly put his weight on it. It held silently. He let his breath out in relief. Another several minutes and he was at the top and stepped up onto the small platform. He looked up and his heart rate picked up even more.
There was a chair on the larger platform above him, and in the chair - tied to it! - was Ken! `Oh shit!' Greg thought. `Now what do I do??' His back was to Greg, but he was sure it was Ken. Blonde hair - messy - but it was Ken's style. He was still naked and Greg could tell that the bottoms of Ken's feet were cut up. Ken would have had to have repaired his body after the jump out of the window, so the cuts on his feet must have happened when he was running through the park. His head was slumped forward. Greg could see minute movements that told him Ken was breathing at least. He was obviously unconscious still. But was he alone? There was still no other noise that Greg could hear but maybe someone was up there with him anyway. Maybe that someone was in another part of the building at the moment and that's why the area he and Ken were in was silent. Or maybe that someone was waiting just out of sight; waiting for Greg's head to pop up over the platform.
He decided the smart thing to do was to go back outside and keep calling until he got hold of somebody. It took him what felt like forever to go back down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he turned back around to look up the stairs; waiting to see if there was any movement that would mean someone else was up there with Ken after all.
He almost choked when a strong hand reached from behind him and clamped over his mouth. At the same time an even stronger arm reached around him and squeezed his chest tight enough to cut off his breathing, not allowing him to move.
Greg was mortified. He almost pissed in his pants right then and there. He thought it was all over. He thought he'd blown it and fucked up Ken as well as himself. He couldn't breathe, couldn't scream, couldn't move. He started thinking about Ely, thinking he would never see him again. He felt hot breath next to his ear. The whisper was so light that even he almost didn't hear it.
"Don't make a sound."
Ely was walking down the street checking out the buildings around him when a wave of dizziness washed over him so heavily he almost fell down. He stopped and leaned against the nearest light pole. A couple walking by asked him if he was all right. He said he was, and they offered to take him somewhere, suggesting the heat was too much for him. He quickly made eye contact with both of them and they smiled and walked away.
It was Greg! Ely knew it. He'd felt the strongest sense of Greg's fear yet. Something had happened again. He knew Greg was alone - they all were now - but Greg was the least experienced and Ely didn't know where he was or how far away he was. His hands shook yet again as he pulled out his cell phone and pushed the speed dial to Greg's phone. He groaned when there was no answer; only Greg's voice mail. He could only hope that Greg was talking to someone else but his own fear made him think otherwise.
Greg thought that was a weird thing to say since he couldn't make a sound even if he wanted to. Hell, he couldn't even breathe! He felt the hot breath again.
"Are you Greg?"
`Oh shit!' Greg thought. `He knows me! I changed my appearance but it didn't matter. He knows who I am anyway!' He thought that if he was ever going to take another breath, he had to cooperate, so he nodded. Again the hot breath came to his ear.
Greg relaxed so completely that Enzo now had to hold him up. He felt his cell phone start buzzing in his shirt pocket. Enzo felt it too. He used the hand on the arm around Greg's chest to give him a couple of reassuring pats and whispered to him again, "Don't talk. Outside." Then he let go of Greg's mouth.
Greg turned and Enzo led him back down the hallway to the opening. He had to hold Enzo's hand to steady himself but he didn't make any noise. Enzo peeked out the opening into the alley, then pulled Greg's hand and stepped out into the alley pulling Greg out with him.
Outside Enzo cupped Greg's face and looked into his eyes. Greg entered Enzo's mind and saw that he was in fact, Enzo. He lowered his own block so Enzo could see that he was in fact, Greg. Enzo hugged him quickly. "That took guts, Greg!" He patted Greg's back, then pushed him at arms length still keeping his hands on Greg's shoulders and looked in his eyes. "But don't ever do that again!" He had a small grin on his face. Greg's face was devoid of any color.
Greg took his cell phone out and looked at the screen. "That was Ely," he told Enzo as he flipped the phone open and pushed the speed dial. Ely answered on the first ring.
"Greg! What's happened? Are you all right!?"
"I'm fine. Ely! I found Ken! I saw him! You've got to get here!"
"Good for you! Where are you?"
"I don't know! Hang on." Greg pushed a button to activate the GPS that was on every cell phone. It flashed the coordinates of his location on his screen. He pushed another button that instant messaged the coordinates to Ely's phone, then put his phone back to his ear. "You get that?"
"I got it. I'll alert the others. You saw Ken? He's all right?"
"He's tied up and unconscious, but he's here! How soon can you get here?"
"I don't know yet, love. I don't know how far away I am. I'll get to the others and we'll get there as fast as we can."
"It's an old theatre building. It's empty. They got Ken inside. I could tell he's breathing but he's not moving Ely! I don't know what's wrong with him! Please get here!" Tears were streaming down Greg's face. Enzo reached out and took the phone from Greg.
"Ely - it's Enzo. I'm here with Greg."
"Enzo! Thank God! I feel better now. Please don't leave Greg alone."
"No chance of that, buddy. I'm like glue to him now. Listen, I haven't even told Greg yet, but that priest person and one other guy are at a café on the other side of the building. They've been there for about ten minutes now. I've got things to do, so get hold of as many as you can and get here. Use the entrance in the alley, and be as quiet as you can. David knows how to do it."
"Will do, Enzo. We're on our way." And the connection was broken.
Enzo pulled Greg across the alley and they knelt behind a trash dumpster. He pulled a pair of sunglasses from his pocket and gave them to Greg. "Listen, Greg, I'm sure there's no one else in the building. These jerks are way too confident. They're actually sitting down to eat and leaving Ken alone."
"So we can go back in and get Ken out!" Greg said excitedly and started to stand up. Enzo pulled him back down.
"Greg, listen to me." Enzo paused like he was choosing his words carefully. "I know about the priest. David is wearing a wire as you know." He pointed to his ear, which held what looked like a tiny hearing aid. "Carlos made it back to the hotel and told David everything. Greg," Enzo put his hands on Greg's shoulders and looked deep in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Greg, but we can't take Ken out of there just yet."
"Greg, listen! If they go back in and find Ken gone before the others get here, they'll vanish. They'll change their appearance and take off in two different directions and go to ground. We can't let that happen. We've got to catch them both! They can't stay here any longer. We've got to send them on. Do you understand that?"
Greg was staring at Enzo. "I don't believe it! You mean we got to use Ken as bait?!?"
"In a way, but only a small way, Greg. You and I are here now. Between us we're not going to let anything happen to Ken. And certainly not when the others get here. But if and when those two go back in the building, they must find nothing out of the ordinary or we could lose them. You and Ely and Carlos talked about it in the car. We have two jobs to do now. We've found Ken so one job is done. But now we have to do the other, and we need Ken to be right where he is."
Greg's face still had no color. He was obviously fighting with himself, but he looked at Enzo and nodded. "Okay," he said weakly.
"Good! I knew you had it in you, Greg," Enzo said and pulled Greg in to hug him. "Now put those shades on." Greg slid them on and then back off and on again a couple of times, blinking his eyes. "They're heavily tinted; that's why it looks so dark when you wear them," Enzo told him. "What you need to do now is go to the end of the alley where you can see those two in the café. The shades are so dark that even if they see you they won't be able to make eye contact with you and know what you are."
Greg nodded and Enzo led them to the end of the alley. "There," he said without pointing. "The two who look like college students at the outside table on the corner."
"I see them," Greg said. There was another dumpster that Enzo put Greg behind while keeping an eye on the café. "I'll go back inside and see what I can see and what I can learn. If you see those two finish eating and get up, you high tail it back and let me know. Then we'll both hide in there and watch and wait for the others."
Greg was rubbing his face. Enzo couldn't see his eyes either but knew the internal turmoil he must be going through. "Even though Ken is unconscious, he can still hear, I'm sure. I'll tell him that it's almost over and we'll get him out of there. I'll tell him he's no longer alone, and I'll tell him that you're out here." Greg only nodded. Enzo patted him on the shoulder again and then ran back down the alley and ducked through the door. Greg sat still and sobbed and watched the café. Even though Enzo was just inside the building, he'd never felt so alone.
Enzo entered the building and hurried to and up the stairs. He wasn't particularly worried about making noise but didn't make any anyway. At the top of the stairs and on the small platform he raised his head up and looked over the platform Ken was on. It was very large, obviously the main stage. Ken was alone at this end of it, and there was a small desk and army cot on the other end. Another set of stairs was just off to the left leading up to the stage. The curtain was pulled across the stage.
Enzo ran up the stairs and onto the stage. He went to Ken and knelt down beside him. "Ken," he said softly while rubbing Ken's shoulders. "My name is Enzo. I'm working with Greg and Ely and Alex. We've been looking for you and Greg found you. He's right outside this building keeping an eye on things. Alex and Ely and some others are on their way. You'll be fine, but right now I can't move you or we might lose the two who did this to you. It's almost over, buddy, but you need to put up with it just a little while longer. We'll get you out of here and back with Alex in no time." He patted Ken's back and then hurried across the stage to the desk.
The desk was a disappointment. Enzo opened all the drawers but they were empty. The only thing on the desk top was a few newspapers, a couple of magazines, and a kitchen timer. There was no phone. All that was in the trash can next to the desk were the remnants of meals, most likely brought over from the café. Enzo pulled a penlight from his pocket and looked under the desk and all around it. He did the same with the cot and the wall that was right next to the desk. He couldn't see anything that looked like a microphone. He didn't expect to find anything - those two thought they were invincible - but he looked just the same. Another set of stairs led down to another platform just beyond the desk. At the back of the stage was an area that had many smaller platforms with strange looking rigging that went up to the ceiling several feet above them. Probably to hold props and things, Enzo thought.
He crossed to the front of the stage and peaked out from the heavy curtain. The auditorium was almost dark, with a little sunlight streaming in from some missing doors that led to the lobby. Not a large auditorium - it looked like it could hold maybe 700 people on the main floor, and around another 300 or so in the balcony.
He flipped open his cell phone and called David. David's phone was set with a specific ring when it was Enzo calling. He didn't have to worry about getting David's voice mail, and David answered in the middle of the second ring.
"David! I'm here with Ken. We're alone for the moment."
"Did you move him?"
"No, no. He's right where we found him. There are two of them. They're at a café across the street. Greg's outside watching them."
"Good. How's Ken?"
"He's unconscious now, but otherwise he looks fine. One side of his head looks damaged, like they've been constantly hitting him to keep him unconscious. I told him what was going on in case he can still hear."
"All right. Did you find anything?"
"Nothing! Obviously this is only where they're holding Ken. We still have no idea where they live, but they haven't brought anything here. How far away are you?"
"About a half hour, I think. Big traffic jams all over the place. This is rush hour. There are others and we're all on our way. Can you hold out?"
"No problem. I haven't really touched anything. If they come back, there's lots of places to hole up and listen to them until you all get here."
"Ely said to use the alley entrance."
"That's right. The stage door. The other doors are boarded up or locked. Come in and turn left. We'll be just up some stairs on a platform. Ken is on the stage just above us. If they come back before you all get here, we`ll just sit tight there and listen and see what we can learn."
"All right, Enzo. We're all on the run. It won't be long."
They broke the connection and Enzo almost dropped his phone when he heard the voice behind him.
"They want to expose us."
Enzo spun around, expecting to find yet a third person who was in the building all along, maybe guarding Ken. But it turned out the voice belonged to Ken himself! Enzo looked across the stage and Ken's eyes were open. He ran across the stage and knelt down to face Ken. His eyes looked a little unfocused, almost as though he wasn't really seeing Enzo. Enzo reached up to caress Ken's face.
"How do you feel?" he asked softly.
"I can't feel my body."
Enzo nodded. "You've been tied up for a long time. Cut off your circulation." Enzo looked closer at Ken. "Did you hear me earlier?"
Ken nodded slightly and spoke slowly. "I heard. Didn't believe you `til I heard you on the phone."
"Do you understand why I have to leave you here for the moment?"
Ken nodded slightly again. His eyes opened a little further. "I wanna go home."
Enzo reached out and hugged him. "You'll be back with Alex and home before you know it."
"Alex is coming?"
"He's on his way. So are some others. You'll be fine. We just need to deal with these two bastards."
"I love him."
Enzo squeezed Ken's shoulder. "He loves you too. He's been a total wreck while we were looking for you. He'll be here very soon."
"Then you'll take me home?"
"Then we'll take you home, I promise. But for now you need to act like you're still out. Don't let these two know you're awake. That's very important. Do you understand that?"
Ken nodded again. He closed his eyes and let his head slump back down. Enzo patted his back at the same time he heard a noise down the stairs. He ran back down and looked around the corner to see Greg squeezing back in through the break in the boards. He told Greg, "Quick! Knock out the rest of the boards." Greg did, and then came to Enzo and they went up to the small platform.
Greg whispered. "They're paying their check. They should be back here in a couple of minutes."
Enzo nodded. "Okay. We'll stay right here and listen to what we can hear. The others will be here in a half hour or less." He took hold of Greg's hand. "Greg, Ken woke up. I spoke to him. He's fine."
Greg's head snapped up. He rose up and looked at Ken, who was still slumped over. Standing up, the main stage was at the height of his chest. He reached out and touched Ken's foot. Ken didn't even flinch. Greg looked back at Enzo. "He doesn't look any different."
"He's pretending to still be out. He understands what we have to do. We'll just hide here and listen to what they have to say and maybe figure out what they're up to."
"How did you know I was here in the first place? How did David know we were being followed at all"
"One of us followed you to the museum to act as backup," Enzo explained. "He saw one of those two jump in a cab and start following you and he called David. I was on my way back from the university when David called me. I saw the building being torn down and got the idea to lead you there to create a diversion. Then I followed those two to the café. I was scouting out this building and came around the corner and saw you climb inside. I figured you were one of us, and was hoping you weren't with them."
Just then they heard a noise coming from the other side of the auditorium. They could tell it was the sound of a key in a lock. Someone was unlocking and opening the entrance that was padlocked.
Enzo and Greg sat down on the platform facing each other and settled in to wait. Enzo squirmed a bit and then reached into his waistband. He pulled out an object and set it on the floor. "This damn thing is too uncomfortable," he told Greg. Greg looked down and saw that Enzo had pulled a gun out. He looked at Enzo in wonder. A gun wouldn't do anything do them. Enzo grinned at Greg. "Part of the costume. That's all." Greg remembered David telling them about their cover story.
Enzo pulled out his cell phone and frantically pushed buttons. He pushed the "send" button and then held his phone out and kept it still. What he'd done was send a text message to David, telling him to conference call whoever he could, and left the connection open so David and the others could hear whatever conversation those two had. Suddenly Enzo's head snapped up and he stared wide eyed at Greg as it finally sunk in what Ken had said. "They want to do what?!?"
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Greg shrugged his shoulders and looked questioningly at Enzo, but Enzo couldn't talk any more. Father Pete and Omar were walking down through the auditorium. The guys heard them climbing up the stairs and onto the stage at the opposite end.
"I guess I should knock him out again. We've been gone for a while," they heard Omar say.
"No," Father Pete said. "Let's go ahead and let him wake up. We may need him to be able to talk. Answer some questions, at least." A chair scraped along a floor as one of them sat down in it at the desk. They heard footsteps coming toward them. Greg sat perfectly still and held his breath. The footsteps stopped right above them. Greg was afraid whoever it was would hear his heart pounding in his chest again.
"He's still out." Omar said and walked back to the other end of the stage as Greg slowly let his breath out. They heard the cot squeak as Omar sat down on it. "Maybe we can use him as a bargaining chip," he said. "His safe return for their cooperation."
"That's something I've thought about too, but there might now be too many of them involved," Father Pete said. The chair squeaked some as though he was leaning back in it. "We know they called their boyfriends but we don't know if they or their boyfriends have talked to anyone else. I've been thinking, though. We missed them twice now. But instead of us scouring the city to find them, there may be a way we can get them to come to us. Get them all together in one place."
"We can get hold of them maybe. You can go back to their hotel and get into their room. Maybe Ken's cell phone is still there. If so, you can get the numbers in its directory. We can call them and make the offer to trade Ken like you said. Tell them he's here. We can hide and watch as they come to get him. Then we'll know how many of them there are, and at the same time get them all here together, and figure a way to take them all out. Maybe you could put another bomb under his chair. When they see him there, they`ll all gather around him, and then you can detonate the bomb. The shrapnel will tear through his and their bodies and mix all their blood, and we`ll be rid of them all."
They spent a while talking about Ken and Greg and what to do about them. Greg kept looking at his watch. Time seemed to stand still to him. What felt like a half hour was only about ten minutes. What felt like several minutes was only one. Enzo had learned long ago about patience. He didn't look at his watch at all.
"How are you doing in the museum?" Omar was asking Father Pete.
"I would like to have gotten to a couple more documents," Father Pete answered. "But if I have to stop now, I can. I have the articles written. The only thing to add are the dates. I have enough to publish for the next year."
"What about the others? We don't really have a solid plan for them."
"Well," Father Pete said, "there's not much they can do about it. None of them will know what's happening until it's happened. They'll come into line, I think. They'll have to. It will be the only thing they can do."
"They could just vanish. Go into hiding."
"That's true, but remember, we know a great many of them. We can find them and force them to show themselves. Even if the truth about the documents is discovered it won't matter. The discovery and investigation process takes a long time and it's done quietly. Even if the public finds out, it will be too late to stop anything."
"Unless that one and his buddies have already done something." Omar was obviously talking about Ken.
"That's why we should go ahead and let him wake up. Find out what he knows and who he's told."
"We don't have a lot of time left," Omar said. "In three days the crews will show up and start working on this place."
"Well we should be done with him by then, I'd think," Father Pete said. "I'm not worried about finding a place to move him to." The guys heard the chair scrape on the floor, followed by the sound of the cot squeaking again. In a couple of minutes they heard the unmistakable sound of the two guys on the stage making out. Greg looked at Enzo, who was sitting with his eyes closed and a hand up to his mouth.
Greg tried to think. What are they doing? Force all of them to show themselves? Whatever they were planning was going to cause all of them to go into hiding? That it would be done before any of them realized it? He had altered the documents and already written articles. So Carlos was right! Once again Carlos had figured it out so fast that Greg felt embarrassed. The document was about them. The articles were about them. That damn priest was going to publish articles about them! To tell the public that they existed! Greg thought back at all the training he'd gotten from Ely and Alex and others. What Father Pete was planning was horrible. The fabric that held society together was already very fragile. Had been forever. This would rip it apart. Ely and Alex had explained to them in detail the chaos that would grip the world if they were ever exposed. Keeping their existence a secret was always the main priority. And yet this damn priest was planning to do exactly what would destroy the whole thing. Greg understood now that the priest and this Omar person had to go. Now. Today. He was sure Ken understood too, and would forgive them for leaving him tied up there like this.
The quiet in the theatre was suddenly shattered by the sound of a bell ringing. They could tell it came from outside, but the clanging was enough to echo through the empty building.
"What on earth is that?!?" they heard Father Pete yell.
"I don't know!" Omar yelled back. "I'll go look."
The guys heard his footsteps pound first on the stairs and then the floor as he ran through the auditorium to the lobby. Enzo's eyes snapped open. He made a motion telling Greg to sit tight. He lifted his cell phone up to his mouth and spoke into it. Greg couldn't hear what he said.
Omar's footsteps sounded again as he ran back through the lobby and up the stairs back onto the stage. "It's the bank across the street!" he yelled. "I guess it's being robbed, of all things!" No sooner had he said that than the first police siren could be heard. It was joined by another, and then another. All the guys could hear was the noise of the clanging bell and the growing number of sirens.
Greg saw Enzo speak into his phone again, but still couldn't hear what he was saying. They could hear muffled sounds from the stage and knew Father Pete and Omar were talking again, but now they couldn't hear what was being said.
It took about 15 minutes but the clanging of the bell finally stopped. Another couple of minutes and the police sirens quieted down. The noise now was more muffled but they could hear people outside. Obviously a crowd had gathered and were making noise of their own, but at least now they could hear the two on the stage again.
"What a time for that to happen!" Omar almost laughed.
"I don't like it," Father Pete said. "Too many people around."
"We'll have to put up with it, though," Omar answered. "We certainly can't move him from here now."
"Maybe you should go ahead and try to get into their hotel room," Father Pete said. "No one will notice you leaving from here right now, and we need to speed things up anyway. Get his phone and we'll think of a way to get all of them in here."
"No need to go to that much trouble," a voice said as Greg heard the stage curtain rustle. "We're already here."
Greg's head snapped up. That was David's voice! He was here! They heard the chair scrape and fall over.
"Who the devil are you?!?" Father Pete demanded. "How dare you!"
"Don't act so surprised, old chap. I believe we are responding to an invitation." Greg's eyes widened. Ely!! That was Ely talking! Ely was here too! He started to rise but Enzo quickly reached out to stop him.
Enzo leaned in close to Greg and whispered, "David has a plan. Just go with it. He'll call for us when he's ready for us to show ourselves."
"Don't worry about those two," yet a third voice said. "Worry about us instead." Greg's head whipped around. This voice was coming from the other side of the stage! From behind it! There were others here! They'd snuck in under the cover of the noise outside. Enzo had spoken into his phone, telling them to hold up when Omar ran through the auditorium, and then spoke again after Omar returned to the stage, telling them it was clear now. Greg looked at Enzo in wonder.
They heard David speak again. "There won't be any articles published you ass hole! None of us will go into hiding, and we won't be forced to show ourselves because of you or anybody!"
"How do you know that?" they heard Omar demand. "Who do you think you are?!?"
"We're the ones who are going to stop you, who do you think, dumb ass?" David said. "Both of you are far too stupid to think you could get away with this."
"You insufferable ingrate!" Father Pete's voice thundered. "How dare you take that tone with me! What makes you think someone like you can stop me doing anything!?"
"Well if you don't think I can, I'm sure you can find someone among us who you think can," David said with a sneer on his face.
"Someone like who?" Omar yelled.
"Like who?" David repeated and laughed dramatically. "Like who? We'll let you take your pick. How appropriate that we are on a stage, don't you think? Let's see who we're playing to!" He looked at Ely and nodded. Smiling, Ely reached up and began pulling on the stage curtain's cord and the curtain noisily slid open.
Enzo was on his knees looking around the corner of the platform they were on. Greg crawled over and joined him as the curtain squeaked open. It was the most amazing thing Greg had seen yet. More amazing than the first time he watched Ely change his appearance. Even more amazing than the mysterious silvery light he'd seen twice now.
The auditorium was packed. Every seat on the main floor and balcony was occupied. The place was full of teenagers. All of them had eyes that twinkled. It was like they were projecting that twinkle, strengthening it, focusing it. Greg felt a little like he was on stage at a concert when the audience all lit candles. The auditorium was full of lit up and twinkling eyes. And they were staring hard at Father Pete.
It turned out Enzo had indeed been busy all the time he was unseen. He'd made some phone calls, and as was their way, the guys he called then called others, who called still others. During the almost 24 hour period that Ken was missing, every plane, train, and bus that landed or entered the city dropped off more and more of them. They came from all corners of the globe, having been alerted that they had a job of tremendous magnitude to do. They'd been getting their information and instructions from Enzo and David.
Father Pete stood on the floor and stared out at his audience. Even more of them were walking around the corner of the stage, then standing still in front of the stage and staring at him. Some of them had their arms crossed, some had their hands in their pockets. All of them had their eyes on him, and he knew he was in trouble.
David walked over to Father Pete and looked down at him. "You should have paid more attention to the alarm and the police," he told him. "I needed a distraction, so I went into the bank across the street, made eye contact with one of the tellers, and told her the bank was being robbed so she would hit the alarm. We used the noise to come in here when you couldn't hear. Do you see how easy you are to fool?"
Father Pete jerked his head to David. "You have no idea who you're dealing with, do you? Do you have any idea at all who I am?"
"It doesn't matter who you are!" Alex climbed up onto the stage. "I'll take you out myself. I'll...oh my God! Ken!"
Greg and Enzo ducked back out of sight as they heard footsteps. Running. Omar's voice getting closer. Greg looked up and saw Omar's head. He'd run up to Ken. Omar raised his hand, and everyone saw that his finger was bloody. There was a little blood on Omar's lips. He'd bitten into his own finger and blood was running down his hand. Omar turned to look the other way. "All of you freeze!" he yelled. "One move from any of you and this guy's gone!" Greg saw Omar's hand lower. Then he saw the back of Ken's head raise up. Omar had taken his bloody hand and grabbed Ken's face and raised it up. "One move from anyone and I'll stick my finger in his mouth and get rid of him!!"
Greg's eyes were about to pop out of his head. He was sitting still, but trembling at the same time. He could see Omar's face, could see the determination in it, and could see that Omar was standing directly in front of Ken, putting Ken between Omar and himself. He knew Omar would make good on his threat, that he was that kind of guy. After all, he'd already tried. With them! With Ken! And with that damn bomb in the hotel room. Omar was telling everyone to get together, to break the circle around them.
On the stage David was barking orders. Unseen by Greg and Enzo there were more of them around the stage than had showed themselves already. Two more guys appeared from behind Father Pete. They reached out, grabbed, subdued and held him. In a blur, David bit into his own finger and held it up close to Father Pete's mouth. "You do that to Ken and I'll do it to him!"
He'd created an impasse. A stalemate. Omar was yelling at David to get his hand away from Father Pete's mouth, and David was yelling back that he wouldn't until Omar stood away from Ken. Greg could see Ken's head shaking. Omar was standing right in front of Ken, holding on to Ken's face and shaking him for emphasis while he yelled at the others.
It's amazing the amount of thought that can pass through a mind in a split second. Greg thought about that bomb, and the fact that they would have put one under Ken's chair. A shrapnel bomb. Tiny bits of jagged metal exploding outward. Tearing completely through one of their bodies, coating itself with blood on the way, ripping into another's body, mixing the blood. Metal passing through one body and into another. It would have worked! Then another thought hit Greg. It can still work!
Greg didn't know he had it in him. He was still shaking, but as smoothly as he could, even before Enzo could react, he'd reached down to the floor and scooped up Enzo's gun. Greg stood up, raised the gun with both hands and fired directly into the middle of Ken's back.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
In the old days when Greg was still human and growing up, bullets then were designed to kill just as bullets of today were. The most lethal bullet of Greg's youth was designed to fragment on impact. It was supposed to break into pieces as it passed through a body, making a tiny hole when going in, but tearing a huge gaping hole on its way out, ripping up any organs it touched on the way. The problem with those bullets however, is that they didn't always behave in the way they were designed. Sometimes the bullet didn't exactly break up, and passed cleanly through a body, leaving it damaged but able to survive. Or it broke up too much, leaving pieces too tiny to do much damage, again leaving the body able to survive.
Today's bullets worked much more efficiently. They were made of a metal stronger than steel but as heavy as lead, and were designed after the old space rockets. Those rockets carried cargo in their nose cones. The cones would open into four equal parts, allowing the cargo to leave the craft and go out into space on its own. The bullets of today at first looked like regular cone shaped bullets, but they were heavily scored down four sides. When the bullet Greg shot tore into Ken's back, it broke along the scores, and flipped open into four equal parts, resembling the blades of a fan. But it didn't disintegrate, and it didn't break up into tiny pieces. Instead it stayed a single unit and passed through Ken's body, ripping apart everything it touched. It passed through Ken's heart, coating itself completely with Ken's blood. It tore Ken`s chest open when it exited, and with it came more of Ken's blood in a fine mist that followed the bullet through the air. The force of its impact made Ken jerk forward, but his ropes kept him tied to the chair, and the ropes tying the chair to a railing kept the entire chair from pitching forward into Omar.
After leaving his body, the bullet with Ken's blood on it slammed into Omar's belly. Since it was already flayed open, it didn't leave a tiny hole like it did in Ken's back, but created a gaping wound in Omar's belly. Ken's blood on the bullet mixed with Omar's blood in his belly. Then the mist of Ken's blood that had been following the bullet splattered into the open wound further mixing with Omar's blood. The bullet slammed up against Omar's spine, knocking him backward, his own bloody hand jerking well away from Ken.
Omar didn't have time to react until he started falling backwards, and even then all he could do was scream. His scream was cut off suddenly, and instead of Omar's body hitting the floor, only his clothes softly fluttered to the stage.
Omar was gone.
Father Pete sank to his knees on the floor, his hands clamped up to his face. He screamed so loud the others thought the people outside could hear him.
All the others stared at the pile of clothes on the floor. A path of Ken's blood was settling on the floor from the clothes to Ken's feet. Ely and the others only stared, as did the entire auditorium. Greg stood rigidly still with the gun still pointed in front of him. No one said a word. For Greg and most of the others, it was the first time they'd seen one of them be taken out. They couldn't describe it as being "killed" since they were all already dead. But it was dramatic all the same.
Only Alex kept moving. He ran across the stage and threw himself on the floor at a spot next to Ken where there was no blood pooling. He reached up to Ken's face. "Wake up baby! Please wake up!"
David changed himself to get rid of the open wound on his finger. But before he could do anything else, Father Pete wrenched himself away from the guys holding him. He dashed between them and vanished down the stairs before any of them could react. All anyone heard was a creak, like a door opening, and then the entire building was plunged into darkness. Father Pete had flipped a switch somewhere and turned off all the lights.
"Don't let him out!!" David yelled. Footsteps pounded on the stage. Others ran toward the stairs Father Pete had taken. "Find it!" David kept yelling. All of them heard hands clapping, slapping, as several of them tried to feel their way along the walls, looking for the switch to turn the lights back on.
David wasn't worried about Father Pete escaping from the building. Several others were waiting outside at all the exits for just that, ready to stop and hold anyone who tried to make it outside. On the stage a penlight lit up the wall behind the stairs. It was Enzo, who'd jumped up onstage when the lights went out. He ran across the stage and down the stairs. It was only a second or two after Father Pete went down the stairs that the lights went out, so the switch must be close by. David's and the other's eyes were already adjusting to the darkness when Enzo found and flipped the switch.
With the lights back on, several of them fanned out and fled into the areas behind the stage. David wasn't worried about Father Pete getting out through the auditorium, either. The guys who ran down the stairs first were now coming back to the stage from the other side after covering the length of the building behind and below the stage. Enzo came around the corner and walked up behind Greg, who was still standing with the gun in trembling hands pointed in front of him. Enzo put one hand on Greg's back. Greg turned and looked wide eyed at Enzo. Enzo leaned in to Greg, said, "You did good," and gingerly took the gun from his hand. Alex stayed at Ken's side, wringing his hands. Ken was still bloody, and it wasn't safe yet for Alex to touch him. Ken was stirring, but hadn't opened his eyes yet.
Enzo climbed up to the stage. In his hands he held Father Pete's cassock. He showed it to David. "Obviously he changed his appearance," Enzo said. "And we don't know what he was wearing underneath."
David nodded and told the others to watch the doors. "So!," he said. "The good `Father' is still with us...in one form or another. Okay." He turned around and faced the auditorium. "Everyone just sit tight. He's still here somewhere and he can't get out." The seats of the auditorium were full, and the floor in front of the stage was crowded. David looked down at them. "You'd have to be standing there somewhere," he said into the crowd standing on the floor. They were all glancing at each other, wary. "There wasn't time for you to go anywhere else." Behind them they all heard the sounds of doors opening and closing as others were still searching the rooms behind and under the stage.
"You might as well show yourself now. Make it easy on yourself." David's eyes quickly scanned the faces in front of and below him as they looked at each other. "It's only a matter of time, you know." Inside, David's mind was working frantically, trying to think of some way to force Father Pete to show himself. The last thing they could do was let him escape, if he hadn't already. All the guys in the audience and on the floor appeared as teenagers. Any other teenager could blend in instantly. Since they didn't know what he was wearing under his robe, they couldn't identify him by his clothes. Making eye contact wouldn't do any good, either. They all had their blocks in place.
Even if they all dropped their mental blocks and made eye contact with each other, Father Pete could easily enter the mind of whoever he looked at and tell the guy to `see' someone else. If only there was a way to make him show himself when he didn't know he was doing it.
It was John, one of the private investigators who thought of it. "Ahem," he cleared his throat loudly so David would turn his head and look at him, which David did. "I think I know someone who can help," he said while looking intently at David. As he stared at David, he walked across the stage to stand directly in front of him. He stared at David's eyes and David took the hint and dropped his block long enough to let John pass a thought to him. Then he smiled.
"All right!" David said. "There is someone who can help, but he's not here with us at the moment." David pulled out his cell phone and looked to the other side of the stage. He winked at Ed, who looked at David questioningly and shrugged imperceptibly. Ed had no idea what was going on. John hurried to the opposite side of the stage and down the stairs.
David looked out at the auditorium as he flipped his cell phone open. "If you'll all bear with me a moment, I'll call him and ask him how to do this." He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and dialed the number written on it. Then he showed the paper to Ed, who smiled and nodded. It was the paper Ed had given him at the hotel, and it had Father Pete's cell phone number on it. David hit the "send" button on his phone while Ed ran down the stairs on his side of the stage.
On the floor of the auditorium, to the right of the stage: the side Greg had been hiding on, a cell phone rang in someone's pocket. "It's him!!" David yelled. "Grab him!" Immediately there was a scuffle on the floor. Several guys turned and hands and arms flailed in the air.
The ruse worked. Father Pete's own cell phone betrayed him. A now blonde teenager was carried back up the stairs by Ed and a couple of other guys. They carried him to a chair David moved to the center of the stage and sat him on it. David stood smiling at him.
"I guess you don't need to answer your phone after all," he sneered at him. "Once again, you need to understand how easy you are to fool!" Father Pete looked down at the floor. "Now go back to the way you normally look. Now!" Father Pete sighed and became his old self again. He glared at David.
Enzo walked up to Ken and said, "It's okay now Ken. It's Enzo. You can wake up. You're safe now."
Ken's eyes fluttered open. He looked around him, squinting at first, then focused in on Alex next to him and managed to crack a small smile. "Hey, babe," he said, but weakly.
Alex was in constant motion. He wanted to reach out and hug Ken, but had to stay back because of all the blood Ken had on his body. "Babe, you...you have to fix it. You have to...you have to fix yourself." He was reaching out, then wringing his hands, back and forth. He didn't know what to do.
"I do?" Ken's eyes glanced down and saw the gaping wound in his chest, with a couple of bleach white ribs sticking out. "Oh yeah." He closed his eyes again and in an instant his body was back to normal. But the chair he was sitting in still had some of his blood pooled in it, and his feet were in the pool of blood on the floor. "I'm a mess, aren't I?" he said slowly. Enzo pulled a knife from his pocket and sliced through the ropes tying Ken to the chair.
Greg was watching in somewhat of a state of shock. He didn't even notice that anyone was at his side until he heard footsteps on the stairs behind him. He spun around to see another guy climbing the stairs. The guy patted Greg's back and jumped on up to the stage. He told Alex, "There's a bathroom downstairs. Not much water pressure, but enough to clean Ken up. There's a few towels too. A bit dirty, but they'll do the job."
Greg and the others watched as Ken got up out of the chair and tentatively started walking. He looked drunk. They all knew he was only tired and confused. Alex led the way, wishing he could pick Ken up and carry him but it wasn't safe. As they walked down the stairs, Alex did reach out and hug Greg. "Thanks!" he whispered in Greg's ear, then led Ken down the stairs and down the hallway.
On the other side of the stage, someone Greg had never seen before walked up those stairs carrying a bundle. "There's a room down there with paint and supplies stored in it. Here's some drop cloths." He and David took the cloths and spread them on the floor over the pooled blood, and along the path Ken had walked leaving bloody footprints. The guy took another bundle from under his arm. "Here's some overalls Ken can put on." He headed down the stairs toward the bathroom.
Greg jumped up on the stage and went to Ely. They embraced and held each other. Others could hear Ely soothing Greg as he stroked his hair. Father Pete sat in the chair, looking despondent as other guys crowded on the stage, surrounding him. There was no way he could run off again.
David walked over to Father Pete and told him, "Now - you've got some heavy explaining to do!"
Father Pete ignored him, and looked at Omar's clothes. "We've been together for more than three and a half thousand years," he said softly to no one in particular.
The audience in the auditorium had jumped as one when Greg fired the gun, but none of them said anything. At first they looked at Greg, some of them puzzled until they saw how the bullet had mixed Ken's and Omar's blood. Their only movements were when Father Pete had tried to escape. Now they all watched silently as the guys took care of Ken and cleaned up the stage. They created an eerie atmosphere in the building with their silence and their eyes. Now they all turned those eyes onto Father Pete sitting in the middle of the stage. Father Pete looked out at all of them, seemingly at first attempting to be intimidating, but quickly cast his eyes to the floor under so many hard stares.
Alex and Ken silently returned to the stage; Ken now dressed in the painter's overalls. They went to embrace Greg and Ely, and stayed together with them. David paced back and forth behind the chair, giving the audience in the auditorium an uninterrupted view of the man in the chair.
"I don't care if you're officially ordained," David said brusquely. "You can drop the `Father.' What's your real name?"
"My real name is Pirotep," the man answered softly. He stole a glance to the pile of Omar's clothes on the floor of the stage. He spoke softly, but they were in a theatre after all, and his voice still carried to the back of the auditorium. "I have called myself Peter for a couple millennia now."
"Okay," David said. "So you're Egyptian by birth. How old are you?"
"Almost six thousand years old," the voice was resigned. He sighed deeply and looked again at Omar's empty clothes.
David stopped right behind him. He leaned down a bit, almost speaking directly into Peter's ear. "No sympathy here, bucko! As I said, you got some explaining to do. How about we stop wasting everyone's time. You know what the questions will be. Start answering!"
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
There are some who would say that David was being cruel. That in spite of everything, Peter did just lose a love of his life that he'd been with longer than all of the rest of them had been alive and on the planet. That it should count for something, and that he should be allowed even a minimal amount of time to grieve. But David knew how the game was played. He knew the best time to interrogate someone was when that someone was at his weakest. At that time, the man would be too distraught and confused to create logical lies. His condition would only allow him to tell the truth. It's worked many times before - on humans - and now it would be tested with one of their own. Besides, David knew, Pete would be joining Omar very soon.
"What could I possibly say now that would make any difference?" Pete asked all of them while he looked at David. "You have already made your decision, haven't you? There is not even one among you who is prepared to intelligently listen, I know that."
"Oh come off it, Pete!" David yelled. "You know exactly what we're doing here. You'd do it yourself if you were in our place. You've probably done it before. Try to maintain a little dignity, man! We'll allow that as long as you're straight with us, and you know that, too." Pete was nodding, as he did understand his situation. He took another quick glance at Omar's clothes.
"You all think you know," Pete began. He glanced out at his audience, and saw that the hard stares didn't waiver. "You think you know what our purpose on this planet is. You think it is ordained that we watch and guide. It is true that God wants the humans to worship Him, but to manage the planet on their own without constantly deferring to Him to fix things and change things, and provide things for them. That they have it in them to accomplish those tasks by their own efforts, not His."
David started pacing again. "That's nothing more than "Completion of the Change, 101," he said. "Are you going to try to tell us that we've all been wrong?"
Pete shook his head and stole another glance at Omar's clothes. "Not completely wrong. I would say `misguided' is a better description."
"Well please!" David said dramatically, sweeping his arm around to indicate the entire audience. "Enlighten us. Educate us! Tell us where we are not completely wrong."
Peter turned to glare at David behind him. David dramatically put his hands on Peter's head and turned him back to face the audience. "Don't just tell me," he said. "Tell all of us." Peter sighed deeply. "You must understand. We all know that God wants the humans to manage the planet themselves. Therefore, that they do, is itself ordained. It is not for us to merely stand back and watch. We must do more than simply see it. We must see to it." He looked over the audience. No one so much as nodded. The eyes didn't even blink. Not a single facial expression changed.
"And you think your altering those documents will see to it?" David asked.
"It's a start," Pete said. "We have to start somewhere. We should have started long ago, but we have to start somewhere."
"So exactly what is the purpose of altering the documents?"
"To prove our existence!" Pete said. "We can't just start walking around announcing ourselves and claim historical significance. The humans must know that we not only exist, but that we have existed all along. And we are not lying! We have existed all along. I wasn't actually altering those documents, but correcting them. Don't you see? We have been present throughout all of history and we need to be included in it."
David shook his head. "How would you explain our silence up to this point, then? How would you account for the fact that to the humans, we have been around all these years and done nothing? You know as well as I do that we have indeed been busy, but how did you plan to prove that to them?"
"History itself will prove it!" Pete sighed again. "We only need to tell the public what we've done, and they will see it for themselves. The humans may be struggling, but all in all they are not stupid. They will see it for themselves, and then they will listen to us." The silence lasted several long seconds while the faces in the audience stayed as still as stone.
"May I?" Pete and David looked to their side. It was Carlos. David nodded.
"These documents in the museum," Carlos asked Pete. "Are they the only documents you've tampered with?"
"I worked on five of them."
"No, no. I mean, the documents concerning ancient Egypt. Is the Egyptian culture the only part of history you concerned yourself with? Have you also been tampering with the history of any other culture?"
Pete looked down at the floor. "I have worked only with the history of Egypt."
"Well then, how did you plan to explain our absence in the rest of the world?" Pete now turned to look at Carlos. "What rest of the world? Egypt and its area was the cradle of civilization. I know it was, I was there! I worked with that history I knew. Besides, where else would we need to have been, at least with some definite proof? Egypt was the standard in those days. It would make sense that we would be there."
Carlos shook his head. "What about the ancient cultures of China? There is archeological evidence of advanced civilizations there at least 9000 years ago. What about ancient Japan? What about ancient India? At the same time a society was forming in Egypt, there were several in Europe. What about the ancient cultures in the Americas? The Mayans and the Aztecs and the Incas in Mexico and South America? Were you planning on claiming that Egypt was favored by God? That the rest of the world didn't matter? How could you possibly support the contention that we only occupied and guided Egypt?" Pete didn't answer.
David stood off to the side and slightly in front of Pete. "Do you understand at all the trouble you could have caused? Maybe you've already caused? And how did you plan to enlist the help of all of us?"
Pete frowned and sighed once again. "I was planning on your voluntary help." He looked out over the auditorium. "Can't you see the good we could do if we could work out in the open? Our biggest problem was the fact that we only worked on the sidelines, out of sight. If the public knew we were around and that we were approachable and dependable, we could accomplish miracles beyond the scale of any produced by the prophets. The public would believe us - they would have to! We would all be there to show them. They couldn't deny us!"
Greg and Ken kept glancing at each other. They and Alex and Ely were standing together now. Greg had one arm around Ely and the other around Ken. Both of them were wondering what would have happened if they hadn't stumbled onto that one lone figure when they did.
"May I?" This voice came from the auditorium. A blonde guy was walking slowly down the aisle. David and the others on the stage nodded. "My name is Abe. Short for Abraham. Fitting, isn't it?" The guy looked at Pete while he slowly approached the stage. The others in the auditorium turned to look at him.
"You've been here for six thousand years you said?" Pete only nodded. "How long have you been working on altering those documents?"
Pete shrugged his shoulders. "A few years or so."
Abe nodded. "Then what have you been doing the rest of the time? Is this the first time you've tried something like this?"
Pete again glanced at Omar's pile of clothes and sighed. "No," he said, softer but his voice still carried.
"What and when?" David demanded.
Pete only glanced at David. "In the old days, when I was young, the world wasn't very big then at all. I knew that if the humans were going to learn to work together, there must be something that tied them all together no matter where they were. It was obvious that the `something' would have to be religion."
"One religion." Abe said from the floor in front of the stage.
"Yes, one religion," Pete said. "It should have been easy back then. I felt at first that the rulers of the world could simply command a state religion. My part was to get them to command the same religion. Don't you see? All humans worshipping in the same way would have been a major step in the process. A major first step!"
"How did you go about it in Egypt?" Abe asked.
"I worked my way into the court of the Pharaohs," Pete said. "I tried to convince Pharaoh to command a state religion. One that I could work with afterwards to help the people start thinking alike."
"Into his court as what?" Abe asked. "A minister? A prince maybe?"
"No," Pete said. "I was Pharaoh's High Priest."
"And did you call yourself `Pete,' or `Pirohtep' back then?" Abe looked directly at Pete.
Pete looked questioningly at Abe. "No," he said, "I called myself Hitepi. Why?"
Abe ignored the question. David and the others tilted their heads at Abe. "And what was it that made your attempt unsuccessful?"
"Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt. I also wanted them freed, able to govern themselves, but still under the influence of Egypt. Moses led them out before I could bring that about."
"Okay," Abe said. "And what did you do after that?"
"Nothing for about a thousand years," Pete said. "Not until it appeared that another ruler would take control of the entire world."
"Control the world, and command another state religion?" Abe asked. He was standing with his arms across his chest, slightly pacing back and forth.
"Yes, of course," Pete said. "The world leader being the one commanding it meant that I wouldn't have to identify myself at all."
"I see," Abe said, nodding. "And who was this leader?"
"Alexander, the King of Macedonia."
"Of course," Abe said without looking at Pete. "And were you one of his generals then?"
"No, I made myself young and fair - to capture his heart rather than his army."
"And once you captured his heart, and he captured the world, you could talk him into commanding just about anything, right?"
"That was the idea, yes," Pete said. "But he died before he could command anything."
"Of course," Abe nodded and gestured to Omar`s clothes. "And when did you bring your now absent partner into it?"
"I recruited him when Rameses II took the throne."
"Did you discuss your plans with anyone else. Any of us, I mean?"
"No, I knew of no others outside of Egypt."
"No others? You mean in all the time you've been in ancient Egypt you didn't recruit anyone else?"
"There was only one other, but he didn't stay with me. He went with the Hebrews when they left." Pete looked at Abe again. "Why is he important here?"
"I see," Abe nodded, again ignoring the question. The audience in the auditorium and on the stage turned their eyes from Abe to Pete and back again as questions were asked and answered. "Well that takes us up to around three thousand years ago. Was there anything else?"
Pete kept sighing and looking at Omar's clothes. He knew better than to refuse to answer, or try to lie. It simply couldn't be done when he was surrounded by so many of them. He still spoke softly. "There was one other time. There was a time when it looked like the Catholic church was in a position to strengthen itself and become the dominant religion. I tried to help it along." "And how did that go?" Abe asked without looking at Pete.
"Very badly, I admit. I didn't count on the fact that the church - any church - was run by humans. Too unpredictable."
"What happened?" Abe asked.
"They got entirely out of control. History now calls it the Inquisition."
"A lot of people died needlessly in those days," Abe said among several nodding heads in the auditorium. "I'm sure there are quite a few of us right here in the theater who remember trying to quell that disaster." Now more heads nodded and glared at Pete. "And you are the one responsible for that?" Pete only looked down at the floor.
"Alright," Abe continued. "And what wonders have you worked since then?"
Pete only glanced up at Abe. "Nothing until now."
"And this time," Abe raised a finger up in the air, "you aren't targeting the world leaders, or any religion. You seemed to be ready to go directly to the general public. Why?"
"The world is too big now, of course!" Pete said as though he was talking to a first year student. "There is no single entity to command the people anymore. But the people are now in a position to command themselves. In the old days, the common people were strictly ruled. These days they rule themselves. I know that if the people knew the truth, they would take action on their own."
Abe stopped pacing and turned to face Pete. His face was reddened in anger. "That is absolutely the most ridiculous thing you've said yet!"
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
Abe shook his head, waived dismissively at Pete, and went back to his seat. All eyes stayed on Pete.
Ely was the next to speak up. "May I?" he said to David, who smiled and nodded. Greg patted Ely's back to encourage him. Ely walked across the stage and sat down on the edge, facing the auditorium instead of looking directly at Pete.
"Do you even begin to see where you went wrong?" he asked. Pete only looked at him. "You made the same mistake each time. Well, several mistakes really, but one major mistake stands out far and above the rest."
Pete didn't move, but only stared at the back of Ely`s head.
"When you sought to influence the rulers of the world, in all the circumstances, you sought to have the people commanded to think a certain way. What way doesn't matter. Right or wrong doesn't matter. Good idea or not doesn't matter. You sought to have the people's thoughts commanded. When you do something like that, you are interfering with their free will!" Heads nodded throughout the theatre.
"You know as well as any of us that interfering with free will is strictly forbidden to us. My goodness, Peter, God doesn't even do that Himself! What made you think you could? You know very well that we are here to help and guide, but not to interfere! How could you possibly seek to break one of our major rules and hope to succeed?"
Pete only stared at the floor. He didn't answer.
"Did you ever sit back and try to analyze what went wrong with all your attempts?" Ely glanced behind him at Pete, who didn't even look up. "Well think about it now! In the old days in Egypt, if you were in fact on the right track, if you were correct in your thinking about the Hebrews and their slavery, and if you were doing the right thing; then why was Moses sent in at all? Why did God send Moses when you were doing what you thought was ordained? Because you were wrong! You were trying to interfere, and God Himself sent Moses to stop you. Our job in this world is to make sure that God doesn't have to intervene all the time, and yet He had to intervene with you!" This time the nodding heads were accompanied by a smattering of subdued applause.
Ely went on. "Why do you think Alexander died when he did? Chance? Coincidence? No! His death was divinely timed wasn't it? Didn't he die right before he conquered what was then the entire civilized world? Right before you would have planted interfering thoughts in his head? He died at that particular time because God took him before you could act! As if that sign wasn't enough, you tried it again later on with the Catholic religion. Only this time, I think, maybe God decided you weren't getting the hint, so He upped the ante in that game, raised the price, and took so, so many people as the price of your interference! And still you didn't learn! At that time there were more of us around - I was around myself! You knew there were more and more of us, yet you made no attempt to obey another rule and discuss your thoughts with any of us, and you continued to act alone. Another big mistake, Pete, and you should have known better." Now Pete looked like he wasn't paying any attention, but those closest to him saw the tiny flinches in his face as Ely spoke.
"So you tried it yet again with the documents. I wonder why Greg and Ken just happened to be in the museum at the time they were. Coincidence again? No. We all know better than that. Once again, Pete, God had to intervene to stop you." Greg and Ken were now wide eyed, watching Ely speak and looking at each other. Alex patted Ken's back.
"And in the process you almost succeeded in sending one of us on who didn't need or deserve to go." Ely shook his head. "Mistake after mistake after mistake, old man! I think it's time we made sure we didn't have to worry about you any more."
Pete glanced up now and then, but still said nothing. Mainly, he kept his eyes on the floor.
"May I?" This came from a black man in the front row, dressed in the traditional garb of one of the African nations. His partner was similarly dressed. They were holding hands in their seats, and kept them together as one of them leaned forward to look directly at Pete.
"My name is Mukasa," he said. "You said the humans would believe us if we showed ourselves to them. I'm sorry my man, but it's been done. It didn't work before, and it won't work now." Pete only glanced at him.
"There have been personal emissaries from God on this planet in the past; Noah, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed. Kings David and Solomon are credited with divinely ordained accomplishments. All those people were here, and still, not everyone believed. Certainly they convinced some, there will always be some who are convinced, but by and large, that `some' amounted to only a very few. And those emissaries were here one at a time, and at different times. You know the history as well as the rest of us. Their presence created quite a stir at those times. And now you would propose that each and every one of us go public? That we inundate the planet with several thousand where before there was only one? That that would be better? What were you thinking? The more the merrier would work?"
Pete was beyond giving answers now, and he knew it. He'd challenged them all at first to listen to him with an open mind, but he realized their minds had been open all along, as was their nature as well as his. He couldn't argue with what they were saying, and didn't try.
"And so what if we did show ourselves?" Mukasa went on. "Why would that make the humans believe in us? Instead, they would immediately seek to discredit us. Especially the current religious leaders they have now; who certainly wouldn't want to give up their own exalted positions, so they would work to make the public disbelieve us. The confusion you would cause would turn into chaos! I don't know if we would be able to stop it." He gestured to Ely sitting on the edge of the stage. "I agree with the esteemed gentleman who sits before you. It is time we no longer had to concern ourselves with you!" Mukasa leaned back in his seat.
"May I?" All heads turned to the side of the auditorium as an oriental man stood up from his seat. "I am Yomataki." He walked up to the front of the stage and faced Pete, who still only looked at the floor. "It has been pointed out that you continued to work alone even in the days when you knew there were many of us around. At that time you still refused to discuss your thoughts with us. So you have therefore appointed yourself our leader? You know very well we are all equal, and have no leader here on this planet! And what would you have us do after you exposed us? How would it work? So what if we let the people see us change our appearance! We would only be called illusionists. Certainly we could enter the minds of some of the people and make them do silly things, but any human hypnotist can do that. We would not be accorded any credit at all. We have it in us to do - and we have done - remarkable things for the good of the human race, and yet you would parade us around as if we were in some kind of carnival side show?!? And you know the humans as well as we all do. You know that many of them would begin to claim that they are one of us in hopes of gaining special status for themselves. Some would even try to make us into some kind of weapon to be used against each other. Once that started, there would be no way to stop it without a major catastrophe on this planet. I agree - it is time for you to go!"
"May I?" Now everyone looked up at the balcony as a fair skinned, blonde, Scandinavian young man stood up. "My name these days is Sven." He gestured down toward Pete. "You say that our being out in the open would make the humans believe in us and allow us to do even more good than before. I don't understand how you could believe such a thing! It is as you say that God wants us to worship Him, but in spite of what is written in all the religious documents, the people still worship others. In the Middle East they worship the Prophet as much as they worship God. In the west they worship prophets and saints, praying to them at least as often as they pray directly to God. They also worship the Son of God, as though he was God Himself." Sven shook his head. "And now you want us to announce ourselves." He now gestured to Mukasa in the front row. "As the gentleman from Africa said, there will always be some who are convinced. And those some would not worship God, but instead would begin to worship us!" He glared at Pete from the balcony. "And that is NOT why we are here!" Heads nodded throughout the theatre with a few mumbles. "I agree with the others. You are no longer worthy to call yourself one of us and do the work we do." He returned to his seat.
"I agree," David said.
"I agree also," Carlos followed.
The next few seconds were followed by voice after voice in the theatre murmuring, "Agreed," until the voices were like a wave starting with the guys on the stage and traveling to the back of the auditorium and up through the balcony. Pete only stared out at them. Not a single one of them dissented.
"Tell us where you live here in Cairo," David said. One of the guys standing on the floor in front of the stage pulled out a pad and pen and wrote down the address Pete gave them.
Pete looked up and around him. He looked again longingly at Omar's clothes. He reached inside his t-shirt at the collar and pulled out a chain. At the end of the chain was a locket shaped like half of a heart. He popped the locket open, and David leaned down to see what looked like an extremely old photograph of Pete and Omar. Pete gestured to Omar's clothes. "He wore an identical locket - the other half of this heart. He always wore it as I have always worn this one. May I hold it a minute?" He looked pleadingly at David.
David glanced out at the audience and raised his eyebrows. Several heads nodded. "All right, Pete. Go ahead." Pete slowly stood up from the chair. Even as he appeared to be a teenager like the rest of them, he stood and moved as a very old man. He walked to Omar's clothes and knelt down. With only his fingertips, he felt through Omar's pants and shirt. He pulled a chain up out of them, wrapping the chain around his wrist. There was indeed another locket matching the one Pete wore. He flipped it open and looked at the photograph inside. Now the guys closest to him could see the tear running down his cheek. Pete smoothly reached back down, lifted a corner of the painter's drop cloth and slid his hand under it.
"The blood!!" David yelled.
Several guys took a couple steps toward Pete. Ely spun around on the stage to look. Pete suddenly whisked his hand out from under the cloth and held it up. It was covered with the blood that had pooled on the stage under the drop cloth. All the guys froze, and then took a few steps back. No one could tell if it was Omar's blood or Ken's, but it didn't matter. It wasn't safe, and now Pete wasn't safe to get close to. David's mind kicked back into overdrive, trying to think of a way to stop Pete from escaping again.
"It isn't worth it," Pete murmured through sobs. "Nothing is worth it without him. No one - no one here or anywhere could measure up to him."
Everyone in the theatre watched silently and helplessly as Pete closed his eyes. They all watched his fist tighten around the two lockets. They all watched as he calmly stuck his bloody fingers in his mouth.
Greg and Ken were amazed at the simplicity of it. There was no blinding light, no bolt of lightning, no gust of wind, no sound at all. Pete simply vanished into thin air. The lockets he was holding clattered onto the stage floor right before his now empty clothes fluttered down next to Omar's. There was complete silence in the theatre for several long seconds.
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
"Well, well," David said. "That's probably the first thing the man has done right in six thousand years." He looked around at every one else. "I guess he did have a measure of integrity in him after all."
Everyone turned as the blonde guy, Abe, climbed up the stairs and onto the stage. He went over and knelt by the pile of clothes. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and used it to scoop up the two lockets in case there was blood on them. He looked up at David. "May I keep these?" he asked.
David nodded, and then asked, "You knew him, didn't you? Some of your questions were a little too precise, as if you already knew the answers."
"Oh yes, I knew him," Abe said. "He was the one who recruited and trained me."
"How old are you?" Ely asked him.
Abe shrugged. "Only a little younger than Pete, I guess, but I don't really know," he said. "In those days, in my village, no one kept records of births, and we didn't pay attention to birthdays. My father was killed in a battle and my mother died in childbirth soon after. I lived alone in a small cave outside the village." He nodded toward Pete's pile of clothes. "He was interested in what I thought at the time was just scratches on my cave walls. It was just something for me to do to pass the time, but he was very impressed with them."
Ely raised his eyebrows. "You lived back in the time when Egypt was founded. Are you talking about the beginning of ancient Egyptian recorded history?"
Abe smiled a little sheepishly, "That's what Pete said, but I didn't know anything about the world outside my cave and the little piece of the river I fished. To me at that time, Pete seemed like a wise man, and I believed everything he told me. I don't even know how old I was when he initiated the change in me, or how long I lived until I ended my human life." He looked around the theatre. "He wasn't always bad."
"I take it you don't subscribe to his theories, then?" Ely asked him.
Abe smiled and shook his head. "No, I don't. I never did, but I never told him that. In the beginning, he trained me normally. I watched and helped him train Omar, and he started out training him the same way he trained me. It was only later, years later, that he started talking differently. I didn't agree, but I kept silent. There was no one else to talk to, so I felt I had to just go with whatever he said."
"So you are Egyptian? But you have a Jewish name," David said.
Abe nodded. "When the time history remembers as `ancient' Egypt ended, we all adopted more modern sounding names. My birth name is Ishmani." He pointed to Omar's clothes. "Omar's birth name was Kanem."
"But still," Ely said, "Abraham is quite a turn. Modern or not, it isn't even Egyptian in any way."
"That's right," Abe said. "When the Hebrews left Egypt, Pete sent me with them. He said they needed one of us to watch over them. I adopted a Jewish name so I could blend in better. It wasn't a good idea in those days to be among them with an Egyptian anything."
"I see," Ely nodded. "So you in effect got away from him before he could completely contaminate you."
"Yes, I guess that's true." Abe looked at the lockets in his hand. "But I really wanted to go. You know, the Bible, and other holy books that have the story of the exodus in them aren't entirely correct. It's true the Hebrews left Egypt, but they didn't all leave at the same time, and they didn't all follow Moses. They left and scattered out in all directions. One very large group left and headed somewhere to the south. Pete was frustrated when he learned that they wouldn't all be leaving as a single group. He talked about keeping me with him until he could find a way to bring all the Hebrews together, but I insisted on going with the group that followed Moses because I wanted to get away from Pete." He looked around him again. "They weren't always bad, you know. I don't know what changed them, but they started out just like the rest of us. I always thought of Omar as a brother." He looked around and held the lockets out for them to see. "I'd like to keep these to remember those early days - the good days." He shrugged slightly. "Does that make any sense?"
"Yes, it does," David said. "It makes wonderful sense. Please keep them. But maybe you should take them to the bathroom downstairs and rinse them off, just in case."
Abe stood up and started across the stage. Stopping in front of Ken and Greg, he reached out and touched Ken's hand. "I'm sorry," he said. "If I had known at the first that it was him, I could have helped sooner. But I'm glad you were here." He looked at Greg, "Both of you." Greg and Ken both hugged him quickly, then Abe went on downstairs.
"Well!" David said loud enough for all of them in the theater to hear. "We've avoided a potentially critical situation here, for sure! And it's thanks to two of our newest!" He waved his hand to indicate Greg and Ken. "Greg and Ken were industrious enough to spot something wrong and call for help. A little tricky as it turned out - but they did it!" The entire auditorium broke out in applause. Greg and Ken blushed with embarrassment as Ely came back to hug Greg and Alex hugged Ken.
The next hour was spent with most of the audience standing in line to introduce themselves to Greg and Ken, and each other. The noise level rose as the talk began. Suddenly it was as if the entire group was there for a social occasion. Greg and Ken didn't try to count the number of times their backs were clapped, their hands shaken, and hugs given and received.
Among the talk, it was decided that it was time for them to have another official gathering. There was much to discuss: how to make sure something like this didn't happen again, ways to keep in better touch with each other, etc. Some of them had dropped what they were doing when they got the call, and had to head immediately for the airport and get back to their business. In a moment when they were fairly alone, Ken turned to Alex and held him. "Babe," he said, "I wanna go home."
"I'll take you home," Alex said. "We'll go right to the airport and I'll take you home."
Greg told Ely, "I could stand to see our house again too."
"Then that's where we'll go," Ely agreed. "The first flight out of here to anywhere and then to Florida and home."
Alex asked the guys, "But what about your studies? You've come awful far to just stop now."
"We can make some arrangements," Greg said. "We can come back maybe in another semester or two and finish up. I want to, but I need a rest now."
Ken looked at Alex. "You'll come with us next time though, won't you? I don't want to leave you again."
Alex pulled Ken in close and wrapped his arms around him. "I'll come back with you. And I'll stay with you as long as it takes. I'll stay with you forever and ever..." his eyes looked around and found Ely. He smiled and winked, "...and ever," he said. Ely smiled and nodded. Greg looked from one to the other, confused.
"I'll explain later, my love. You'll like it."
One Month Later
Alex and Ken went back home to Denver, and Greg went with Ely back to Florida. As it was when they first went to Ely's house so long ago, they spent the first couple of weeks or so just being together. Again they stayed naked and had fun with each other inside and outside the house, on the beach and in the water. A quick phone call to Denver and they learned Alex and Ken were doing the same thing.
"Acting like newlyweds!" Ken laughed over the phone to Greg.
Greg and Ely were relaxing in the hot tub one evening when their phone rang.
"Greg, its me, Enzo." After everyone had left the theatre a month ago, David and Enzo, and the two private investigators stayed behind and went to Pete's house. They spent a couple weeks doing what they called a "clean-up" operation. They ascertained that there wasn't really all that many people who knew "Father Pete," so they met all of them, made eye contact with them and erased their memories of Omar and Pete. They searched the house and removed anything that even remotely could be tied to what Omar and Pete really were. It was this effort that prompted the phone call to Greg.
"We're about done here in Egypt, Greg. We're planning to take Pete's place and put it up for sale and donate the money to a local charity, but we feel like we're not done yet."
"What else is there to do?" Greg asked.
"Well, that's the thing - we don't really know. We just feel like something's missing. A gut feeling, you know? We have no idea what, but we feel like there's something about this house that we haven't caught yet, but we have no idea what it is. It's an old place, huge and opulent, and we feel like we're walking right over something. You were an architect, and we think your expertise in that area would help here. Um...if you don't think it's too soon, can you and Ely sneak back over here and help us out a bit?"
"Sure - consider us there," Greg said and told Ely what was going on.
The next day, Greg walked into Pete's mansion and right away told the guys the house seemed like it did indeed have other stories to tell. "It didn't used to be a house," Greg said as they walked through it. "It used to be an office building maybe, or a school." He pointed down a hallway. "The halls are too long, even for a mansion that was originally designed to live in. The doors are too evenly spaced apart, like offices or classrooms would be." Inside the rooms he told them, "The bathrooms were obviously added later. The original bathrooms were at the end of the halls, and in those bedrooms you can see that the bathrooms blend in better." On the main floor he told them, "The living room is too far from the dining room, which is too far from the kitchen. Any architect knows to put those three rooms right together, so it's obvious to me that this building wasn't originally a house. They probably had to renovate however the plumbing and wiring let them." The guys led Greg to the basement. Dark and musty, it was only used for storage. Over the centuries Pete and Omar had gathered enough stuff to fill the basement. "Again," Greg said, "there's too many rooms down here for just a storage space. Originally this basement was an active part of the building. The furnace is all the way at one end, and these rooms were probably offices or classrooms."
They walked out back of the mansion onto a stone terrace. Greg turned and looked at the house for a couple of long minutes. He pointed. "There," he said. "See those four places where it looks like there used to be columns or something? Like a solid wall went from the basement to the top without interruption?" The guys squinted and then saw what Greg was talking about. "Those are supporting walls, and they look out of place right now. It's not aesthetic to let them show like that. No one would design a building that way. It means this building used to be bigger than it is now. It's like a portion of the building was torn down, or damaged or destroyed or something, and those walls were left showing like that. Most likely the original building was large enough to cover this terrace. This terrace is the same length and width as the building, and the stones on the corners are much larger than the rest of them. They probably were the base for some big columns or something that held the weight of the rest of the building."
"What does it mean, my love?" Ely asked while the others squinted at the building.
"Maybe nothing," Greg said. "That kind of thing happens all the time with buildings this big and this old. But," he tapped his foot on the stones of the terrace. "I think that the basement we saw was only half its original size. There's more of it than we saw, and I think that the missing part of the original basement is under this terrace."
They went back into the basement with extra lights on the end of extension cords, and Greg pointed out that one wall of the basement was obviously much newer than the other walls. Enzo and John went into town and came back with some sledge hammers. They went to work on the wall, and sure enough, there was an entire room behind that wall. Once they got into the room, Greg told them there must be a secret entrance somewhere, or there was some kind of apparatus to operate a hidden door built into the new wall. Greg looked at David, "You weren't kidding when you said you were walking right over something!" In any case, they were amazed at what they saw.
The room looked modern. Even had electricity and running water. It was a library of some sort. The books on the shelves covered three entire walls. But they weren't books that the usual library collected. They were filled with what was obviously journals that Pete had been keeping. Six thousand years of Pete's life and after life were contained in the journals. The earliest ones were written in hieroglyphics on old papyrus instead of paper. At least one wall's worth of journals were in hieroglyphics - the others were written in other languages; Hebrew and Aramaic even, the latest ones finally written in English. Another phone call was made to Denver, and in another couple of days, Ken and Alex were back in Egypt.
It took almost a month for Greg and Ken to translate the oldest journals. The other guys spent the time reading the ones that were already in English. Because none of the journals had to withstand the ravages of being buried in the desert for thousands of years, they were in great condition.
It was all there. All the plans Pete made, the entire history of ancient Egypt, all written and easy to read and chronologically in order. The guys noticed that every fifty or sixty years or so, the style of writing dramatically changed, as though the entire collection was made up of writings of many authors. Pete had convinced himself that he'd thought of everything. It was apparent that he somehow planned to "discover" all these journals at some point, thus providing definite proof not only of their existence and influence, but finally having a complete history of ancient Egypt all in one place as an answer to all the archeological finds to date. Greg and Ken verified that except the parts describing themselves, the rest of the history was for the most part true. Only the parts that no one knew anything about had to be assumed to be true. It was decided to hold off putting the house on the market for quite some time.
Three Years Later - Denver
Alex and Ken volunteered to host a gathering at their resort near the end of August. Ken's summer crew had finished their work and cleared out of the hotel. Ken gave the small skeleton crew a paid vacation so they would leave the hotel, leaving it empty. The resort was huge and the hotel had 150 suites that had two king sized beds in them capable of sleeping 600 people, and another 100 regular rooms that could sleep another 400. In a couple of days it was filled to capacity with teenagers whose eyes twinkled. Some of them had experience with hotel management and acted as the staff so the hotel could stay empty of humans. Greg and Ely, David and Enzo, Ed and John, Carlos and Juan, and Abe, who was single at the moment, all stayed in Alex and Ken's house.
In the intervening years Greg and Ken returned to Egypt and finished their doctorates in archeology. Carlos and Juan traveled up north from Brazil to attend their graduations. Afterwards, even Abe was called back from Israel to help the guys translate the journals in Pete's secret library, as he was able to read all of them without any trouble since he lived in Egypt and spoke the languages during the years most of the journals covered . The whole process took over a year.
At Ken's hotel in Denver Ely was on his cloud nine. There were around a thousand of them to feed for a few days and Ken had given the hotel's kitchen and facilities over to Ely. Greg lamented that he had no idea what it would take to drag Ely out of the kitchen. Ely spent weeks planning the menus. Several of them were either trained chefs like Ely, or simply loved cooking, so they acted as the kitchen's staff. Ely spent two whole days doing nothing but folding napkins into various shapes of birds and flowers and such. Each meal was served to thunderous applause.
The meetings were held in the hotel's largest ballroom. Greg and Ken noticed that the discussions went much smoother than any discussion they'd ever had as humans in classrooms or wherever. Each new speaker started with the same, "May I?" as they did in the theatre in Cairo. Each speaker was allowed to speak his piece without interruption. Questions were then asked and answered one at a time. No one was interrupted and not allowed to finish his thought. The guys were amazed.
Among other issues, it was decided to take the entire collection of Pete's journals and destroy them. As valuable as they may have been historically, they were tainted with Pete's own opinions, his references to themselves, and with that many books they could never be sure that they didn't miss something that would have raised eyebrows about their existence. Besides, no one could think of any plausible way to allow them to be discovered by current archeologists that wouldn't create too much of a stir in the worldwide community.
Greg and Ken learned that the simple act of making themselves appear as teenagers all the time was another cloak of secrecy they used. No one watching the resort would have given it a second thought. It is always assumed that teenagers don't know anything about anything, so no one would have thought to suspect what was really going on in that hotel. They didn't know that contained within the minds of all those teenagers was the collective wisdom of the ages.
Nor did anyone suspect at the end of the weekend as all those teenagers made their way to the airport that they were all going back to their homes and their territories to watch over the humans. Guiding where it was needed, taking action when they agreed it was warranted, and waiting for the day to eventually come when the human race would decide on its own, of its own free will in conjunction with its brain, soul, and conscience, to make use of that wisdom.
(Until something else comes up!)
Intelligent comments and constructive criticism are VERY welcome! Send them to: email@example.com Please mention the story title in the subject as I have several stories on here.