Avalon 5.4 The Mystery of the Madness, part 6 of 6

Lincoln spoke up when there was a lull in the conversation around the supper table.  He had gotten his old notepad and pencil out to scribble while they talked.  “Sounds to me like the job is complicated. This is where the CIA would start to look for more than one person being in on it.  There might be a main person, but it sounds like they probably have accomplices”

“There may be one of the gods, or a goddess supporting it, if not directly involved,” Rachel agreed, with a look at Sakhmetet.

“I’ll talk to my father,” Sakhmetet said.  “A high priest,” she lied to the others who did not know her real identity.

“Alexis and I will look around the little community,” Boston said, meaning they would seek out any elves, dwarfs and other little spirits that might be in the area.  “I’m looking forward to it.”  Alexis nudged Boston and looked at Rachel and Hotep.  She was holding his hand, gladly, but pretending to ignore him at the same time.  He was looking at her and adoring her, without pretending anything.

“What?” Rachel asked for being stared at.

“You remind me of someone from way back near the beginning of our journey, back when we first got the horses and did not know how to ride them very well.”

“Who?” Boston asked.

“Qito, and I think his name was Tec’huanu, or something like that.”

Rachel sat for a minute before her eyes got big.  “What?”  She snatched her hand back from Hotep.  “I’m not a Shemsu and Hotep is not a bottom dweller.”

“Oh yeah,” Boston grinned an elfish grin as she remembered.

“Shut up,” Rachel stood.  “Shut up,” she stomped out of the house.  Hotep looked at everyone, slightly confused, but after a moment, he got up and followed her.

“Same response, too,” Decker said, softly.

Lockhart looked back at Katie who was sitting on the floor.  He held his hand out to her, and she gladly took it and came up to sit beside him, in Rachel’s vacated chair.  Artie took Hotep’s chair and smiled at Sakhmet.  Lockhart turned to Surti, the one Rachel said had a brain.

“You need to find as much information as you can on the victims of this crime.  See if there is a connection between them that might suggest the culprit.”

Surti thought for a minute before she responded.  “The Hall of Records is next to the governor’s house.  The scribes keep all the information on the people, who is who, property rights, and so on, down to who owns which cow.  We could start there.”

“We can also talk to the families of the victims and see what turns up.”

Surti nodded with assurance.  “I see why Rachel sought your input.  Who would have thought of doing such things?”

###

Three days later, the travelers came to the Nile to await passage to the other side.  The horses were well rested, being fenced in a large area where they had a chance to play and eat sweet grass, oats and mixed grains.  The travelers were not so well rested.  They spent three days slinking around the city, watching and following suspects, interviewing people, and digging through the records in the Hall of Records.

Lockhart and Katie played good cop-bad cop in their interview with Sokar.  Lockhart pressed the man pretty hard.  Sokar said he did not like what they were implying.  Katie said they were not implying anything.  They were simply asking questions, and she smiled kindly at him before Lockhart started in again.

Sokar went to the governor’s house to complain, but Horemheb was busy.  Horemheb sent word to Sokar that the Scooby Gang was looking into things and he would just have to wait and see what turned up.  No telling what Sokar thought of that message.  Horemheb, who they had to bring in on the whole enterprise, turned out to be remarkably like his son.  He found it all exciting, but then he was mature and wise enough to understand that they were digging for real, hard evidence that would prove who was guilty.

“No point in condemning an innocent man on hearsay, as you call it, circumstantial evidence.  That is not going to make the problem go away,” Horemheb said.

Standing beside the Nile, Rachel hugged everyone.  Lockhart tried one last time.

“You sure we can’t stick around and help you solve this case.”

Rachel shook her head, reached back and took Hotep’s hand.  She turned slightly red and looked down at her feet as she spoke.  “We have made a good beginning now.  I don’t think it will take long to prove the guilty party, especially now that I have Sakhmet going around in a Sherlock Holmes hat and carrying a magnifying glass.”

“Besides,” Hotep spoke up, and glanced at Rachel almost like asking permission to intrude on her friends.  “We know that Sokar had a grudge against all seven men.  They were all lower level noblemen, just the sort of people Sokar has regular dealings with.”

“And,” Rachel said.  “Alexis and Boston brought word that Sokar is a man of magic, and may have gotten his power from a certain goddess.”

“That’s the scary part,” Meme said.

“Don’t worry.  We’ll protect you,” David said, and Joseph nodded.

“That’s the real scary part,” Rachel teased Meme, and at least Hotep laughed.

Sakhmet arrived and hugged everyone.  She especially hugged her adopted mom and dad, and scolded them once more for still not being married.  Then she took her adopted sister Artie to the side where they could talk, privately.

The ship took two at a time, with their horses, so it took all morning to get everyone across the river.  Katie and Artie came last, and as they shoved off from the shore, they spied Rachel and Hotep kissing.

They rode south, against the current, on the desert side of the river.  They camped under the shadow of the step pyramid in Saqqara, which was not well kept up.  They talked about the demonized men, that they all saw, and that gave Boston and Artie nightmares.  Lincoln denied that he had nightmares.  They talked about who could be responsible, and agreed Sokar seemed the likely choice.

“No,” Lincoln said that evening.  “You can’t read ahead in the database and find out.  I have tried very hard not to do that myself.  It would not be wise to know the outcome ahead of time.  Too much chance of letting it slip, by accident, and screwing up all of history.  The Kairos is right about that.”

The following day, Boston calculated that the time gate should be about where the turnoff to Fayum might be.

Lincoln suggested, “Where Nen-Neswt is.”  Boston shrugged, but did not object.  Others looked curious, so Lincoln explained.  “That was where Weret gave birth to Narmer’s child on the way to conquer Memphis.  In the future, under the Ptolemys, they call the city Heracleopolis.”

People nodded, like that explained it, whether they understood or not.  Only Boston said, “I remember Weret and the Bluebloods.”

They rode in the quiet after that, only pointing out certain flora and fauna, when Artie, who had not said much of anything that whole time, came out with her thought.

“I would like a boyfriend.”

Lockhart looked back.  “That might not be so easy to arrange.”

Katie spoke to Lockhart.  “Notere assured me that Amphitrite included a three-year contraceptive like the rest of us have.  At least we won’t have to worry about her getting pregnant.”

“I hope that is not what she is thinking about,” Lockhart said.

“I don’t see why not,” Katie said.  “It would be healthy and normal.  And I am thinking about it.”

Lockhart stiffened, felt Katie’s eyes in the back of his head, and said nothing.  Lincoln wisely looked at the Nile.  Boston shouted nothing from the rear because Alexis scolded her, quietly.

“Don’t say it.  Focus on your lesson.”

They rode a bit more in the hot and quiet afternoon, then Artie said, “What?”

************************

Monday

The travelers return to Greece for Episode 5.5, Artemis Home.  Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading

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