A Killing at El Kab
A seemingly cursed Egyptian archaeological dig… An Acting Director with a clouded reputation… Rumors of treasure hidden in the dig house… Two vicious murders… Stage psychic Sandra Caulder feels as if she has gone out of the frying pan and into the fire. On the run from a vengeful ex-boyfriend, she heads for the least likely place she can think of – Egypt, where her niece is working on a dig. Once at the dig house Sandra is told Egyptian law will not allow her to stay, but when after her arrival a very unpleasant Egyptologist is murdered she obviously becomes the prime suspect, so the law will not allow her to leave. Forced to work in menial jobs at the dig house, she comes across evidence of treasure having been hidden in the house. As gold fever infects the crew, there is another murder for which Sandra is again the prime suspect. Which of the crew is the killer, and who else must die before he is caught?
After dinner, during the hour when the crew relaxed with some surprisingly excellent whisky, Helma had made a great production of bringing in her reconstructed pot; some of the pieces were still missing, but now enough was there to see what it had originally been. The archaeologists were politely interested in it, commenting on the unusual shape. To Sandra it looked just like an old, broken up pot that had been reglued. With due ceremony Helma opened a small door in the dining area to reveal a pantry-like little room lined with shelves that held a few objects, presumably artifacts, none of which Sandra could recognize.
After Helma had almost ceremoniously placed her pot on a shelf everyone went silently back to their own work and Sandra gave up and went to bed. She hadn’t expected to sleep, but when she was suddenly jerked to full and alert consciousness the surrounding darkness was profound. Tiffy was asleep in the other bed, giving out little whistling snores. Her watch, sitting on the chair that Sandra was using as a nightstand, showed that it was just past three o’clock.
What had waked her? She was still tired, so it couldn’t be that she was slept out. Beyond the sound of Tiffy’s snores the dark silence was thick and profound.
Except for the clicking of the floor tiles.
Oh, great! She had been awakened because someone had to go to the bathroom. Now could she get back to sleep?
Sandra’s eyes opened wider. People went to the bathroom at night all the time and it had never fully waked her before. She scrubbed at her eyes with her knuckles like a sleepy child, then lay back on the bed.
Something was different. Something had awakened her. And it wasn’t totally dark.
Around the edge of the door leading to the common room there was the thinnest possible thread of light. Was someone up working at this hour?
Something was wrong. Sandra could feel it in her bones.
Even though she didn’t really want to she slipped out of bed and crept across the room. The screen-door type hook was old and rusted, and so took some effort to open. Once the hook was free Sandra took a moment to stop and listen, but there was no sound.
The door was tight, for when Sandra turned the knob and eased it open the room was brightly lit. The overhead lights in the common room and office area were off, but the single bulb illuminating the pantry-like closet gave off an incredible amount of light against the surrounding darkness.
Too much light, for it showed everything.
Sandra didn’t realize when she started screaming, and neither did she realize when people came in. She wasn’t even aware of when she quit screaming. Just all of a sudden she was surrounded by everyone in the house; Eric vonDaschele had reached her first and was holding her, pressing her head tightly against his shoulder. Axel was supporting a white-faced Tiffy, and none of it helped because the scene was still the same.
Dr. Paul Licht, respected scholar and thoroughly unlikeable human being, lay sprawled face down on the floor, half in and half out of the little closet. The back half of his head was caved in and splashes of wet red seemed to cover everything. Beside him lay the huge metal caliper, the long pointed end covered in the wet red and little unrecognizable bits of… of something Sandra didn’t want to think about. Around his head was a huge pool of blood spreading outward in a dark corona, a scattering of pottery shards scattered among it like dark jewels.
Helma’s voice cut jaggedly through the thick silence. “Goddamn sonofabitch! He broke my pot!”