"Peter! Donít tell me you miss me already?"
"The minute I walked out the door, my love," he laughed. "Listen, darling, have you made arrangements yet to go to Nevada?"
Not yet, but I was just about to. In fact, I had my hand on the phone when it rang."
Peter took a deep breath. "Good! How would you like to try those itchy archaeological fingers in Egypt?"
Megan gasped. "Peter! What are you talking about?"
"Look, honey. Natasha is sick and canít go on this assignment to Egypt, and we need an archaeologist. The best archeologist. What do you say?"
"Do you want me to pack for you, too?"
Peterís laughter rang out. "Iíll get back to you with the details. See you soon. I love you."
"I love you, darling."
Connor and Lindsay were just finishing breakfast, and Sooty was licking up the last of his Sheba.
"Are you feeling any better this morning, honey?" Connor asked.
She smiled at him. "Oh, yes. Once that backache went, I was able to sleep. Thank you again for that."
He picked up her hand and kissed it. "My pleasure, my lady."
She leaned over to kiss him, then sat back in her chair. "Are you going to take that summer school position?"
"I think so. It will only be Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Iíll be able to help with the baby most of the time."
"Ah! Thatís music to any wifeís ears." She stood and began clearing the table. "I have a doctorís appointment this morning. Care to drive me? I canít get behind a wheel any more."
"Taxi at your service, madam," he said lightly, then, seriously: "I want to be there with you and for you, all the way."
She stopped and kissed him lovingly, then put her forehead on his. "Do you know how lucky I am to have you?" she whispered.
"No, but if you hum a few bars . . . "
She made a fist and gently rapped the top of his head as they laughed together.
The doctorís report had been excellent, and he had suggested she begin walking more. That evening, arms linked and hands laced together, they walked slowly through their village, enjoying the cool mountain air of early summer.
"Iíve been thinking, honey," Connor began, "about how hard itís getting for you."
She shrugged. "Thatís what happens when two people try to occupy the same space at the same time."
He threw back his head and laughed. "True." He stopped and turned to face her. "Lindsay, instead of having Mrs. Shultz in once a week on Wednesdays, Iíd like to have her on the days I have to teach a class."
She looked at him, puzzled. "But why, darling? You heard the doctor say I was fine. Iíve taken care of myself for a very long time, and Iím perfectly capable of taking care of us, even now," and she lightly touched her stomach.
"Honey, thatís not what I mean, although I think you could use extra rest and help just now, being youíre so close. But also, Iíd feel better if she was there, just in case of an emergency, and I couldnít get there andĖ" He broke off, and then continued, his eyes pleading. "If you were alone, and something happened to you or the baby, IídĖ"
She put her arms around his neck and held him close. "I understand, darling. I sometimes have those worries, too. Itís natural, I guess." They continued on, and after a few minutesí silence, she looked at him and smiled. "O.K. I think itís a great idea."
He swept her into his arms with an audible sigh of relief, and kissed her in the glow of the old-fashioned street lamp.
It would have been hard to say who was more excitedĖPeter or Megan. They were waiting in the V.I.P. lounge with the rest of the team, and both had trouble sitting still.
"Peter! This has got to be a dream! Iíve always wanted to go to Egypt! This is incredible!" She was just short of babbling.
Peter laughed. "The only thing you have to remember isĖavoid camels!"
"Iíll tell you some time. But honey, youíve got to settle down, or youíll burn out even before we get on the plane!"
She laughed in response. "Look whoís talking?! How many cups of coffee does that make now?"
"Okay, okay. But examining one of these crystal things has been my dream ever since the first skull was found. Then when the other one didnít pan outĖ"
"Yes, you told me. What a shame that was!" Then: "And what a mystery Egypt is." She held out her hand. "Let me have a sip of that, will you?"
He handed her the cup, and just then their flight was called. She took a quick sip and handed it back to him, and he finished it in one gulp. Shortly thereafter, they were on their way to Egypt.
Anton surprised Peter by appointing him the Case Manager.
"But why, Anton? Youíre the senior onsite."
"Peter, Iím not up to investigating. While you were away, I had the worst flare-up of malaria ever. I came within a shade of blackwater fever. I shouldnít even have come, but this case has always been unfinished business, and is as important to me as it is to you."
Antonís lips traced a smile. "I thought it was an extra-ordinary case, and I always regretted that the first scarab disappeared. And there was a first one. A genuine one. Iíve always been sure of that. Those witness interviews couldnít have been fabricated."
"I know." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Iíve always wondered: whatever happened to the real one?"
It was Wednesday morning in New Hampshire, and Mrs. Shultz had already arrived for the day. Breakfast was cooking, and it smelled wonderful.
"Why donít you go on down and talk to her, darling? Iíll be along just as soon as I check my e-mail. Itís been a couple of days."
"Are you sure? I can wait for you."
"Connor, Iím sure," she laughed. "Go! Before I chase you out!"
"I dare you!" and before she could take him up on it, he scooted out the door, laughing.
She looked down at the little cat at her feet. "Oh, Sooty, isnít he wonderful? I love him so much!"
The kitten peeped in reply and she lifted him onto her lap as she booted the computer. She was delighted to find an e-mail from Megan waiting for her.
Downstairs, Connor entered the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. He leaned casually against the counter to drink it as he talked to the housekeeper. "Mm, that smells wonderful," he began. He snatched a strip of bacon, and got his hand playfully spatted. Grinning, he nibbled on it. "Lindsay and I have been talking, and we want to change your schedule, if itís possible."
She looked at him questioningly and he continued. "Iím going to be teaching a summer course two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and frankly, I donít like the idea of leaving Lindsay here alone, so close to her due date. Iíd like for you to be here on those days instead of Wednesdays. Would that be a problem?"
"Ah, no, aní of course not. Iím glad you asked me. I worry about the young Mrs., too, especially with a first baby. They can come with surprises, they can."
Connor grinned and swiped another strip of bacon. "IĖ"
Connor nearly dropped his cup and bolted from the kitchen, taking the stairs three at a time, and skidding to a stop just inside the bedroom door. "Honey, what is it?" Both were breathing hard, and shaking.
"I just got an e-mail from Megan! They were back in New York less than a day, and Peter was assigned to a case! Sheís gone with him, Connor! To Egypt! As archaeologist! Theyíve found another one of those scarabs!" Her eyes were dark with fear. She still had occasional nightmares about her encounter with the first one.
Connor was stunned. "Let me think about this a while. Weíll discuss it later."
She nodded, and he escorted her downstairs, their arms around each otherís waists.
The little housekeeper was standing at the foot of the stairs, her pale face looking up at them. "Are you all right, young Mrs?"
"Iím fine; Iím sorry I scared you both," she laughed. "Chalk it up to what someone once called the Ďninth-month nutsies.í"
Peter had contacted the government and they had promised to bring the artifact to the mobile lab. It arrived, in a heavy metal box, guarded by four soldiers. After seemingly endless formalities, they left, and Peter was free to open the box.
Megan stood beside him, as nervous as he was. The box was especially made, with only one key in existence, the one he now held. He slipped it in the lock, and for one harrowing second, thought it wouldnít turn. Then he wiped his sweating hands on his pants and got a better grip on it. The lock gave, and he lifted the lid.
"Connor, isnít there something we can do?" It was the sixth time she had asked him that question. They were upstairs in their room, consulting in low tones.
"Like what, honey?" He was still deeply distressed, and at a loss.
"Warn them how dangerous it is!"
He shrugged helplessly. "But we never found it, remember? So how could we know?"
Lindsay closed her eyes and nodded. "I just hope Mustafa can find a way."
"So do I."
"I just couldnít bear it if something happened to them! He said it was dangerous."
Connor was thoughtful. "No," he answered slowly, "what he said was Ďin the wrong hands it could be dangerous.í Our people arenít the wrong hands."
"No, thatís true; butĖwho says itíll always be in their hands?"
Peter lifted the scarab as gently as if it were a shelless egg. His hands were visibly shaking, and his breathing was ragged. Then he lifted his eyes and looked at Megan, his face elated.
"Do you hear it?"
"Hear what, darling?"
"The music! ItísĖwhy, itís beautiful!"
Megan was frightened. "Peter, I donít hear anything!"
"Itís so strange! Itís like nothing Iíve ever heard before!"
"Peter!" she said sharply.
He blinked and focused on his wife. "Sorry, honey." He blew out his cheeks. "Boy, that was really weird! Iíd heard these things have that affect, butĖ" He shook his head, then looked down at the object again. "Can you translate the hieroglyphs on this setting?" he asked, handing it to her.
She held it gingerly, with her fingertips barely touching the rim. "The-eye-of-Horus-" she began slowly, then glanced up, bewildered. "This says ĎThe eye of HorusĖíandĖand of ĎSet!í Peter, this doesnít make sense! Horus and Set are the exact opposites in the pantheon. Horus represents good; Set represents evil."
Her hand closed around it automatically while she was talking to her husband, and all of a sudden, her eyes werenít seeing him, but a distant time, and the royal court of the pharaoh!
That evening, as they took their walk, Connor and Lindsay avoided the subject of the scarab. Lindsay was tired, and a little down.
"I will be so glad when this baby gets here," she smiled ruefully. "I feel like Iím going to explode!"
Connor laughed. "Please donít. Terrible mess, you know."
She looked at him with mock exasperation, and he laughed again, then sobered. "I know youíre miserable, honey, butĖ"
He stopped abruptly. "What? Your back again?"
She shook her head, biting her lip. "Hard kick. Oh, boy!"
"Do you want to stop a while?"
She nodded, and they settled on a nearby bench. From there, they had a view of "their" covered bridge, and she leaned against him as they looked at it. "Remember the first day you showed it to me? The day we found our house?"
"Yeah. You specified the town had to have a covered bridge. I did you one better."
She laughed. "You certainly did." She glanced up at him, serious, then looked down at her hands. "Connor, doesĖdoes it sound silly to say I felt the house was waiting for us?"
"No. I thought so, too. It felt like home the instant I saw it."
She nodded and looked at him, relieved, her eyes alight. "Iím so glad I love you."
"The feeling is mutual, my darling," he smiled, and, drawing her close, kissed her with both gentleness and passion.
"I did a chemical analysis, and thereís no trace of an hallucinogen," Peter was saying.
Megan shivered involuntarily. The entire team was gathered around the conference table for their daily exchange. "That was the spookiest experience Iíve ever had! Back in Nevada, I felt the presence of the Indians, but thisĖthis was soĖso real!" She looked at Peter. "It felt like I was actually there! Iím so glad you grabbed it out of my hand when you did. I felt so powerless!"
The scarab sat in front of Anton, and before anybody could react, he reached out and picked it up. "I donít see what all the excitementís about. IĖ" A dreamy expression came over his face. "Why, itís Nicole!" he smiled.
Megan glanced at Peter questioningly. "His daughter," he whispered.
She looked at Anton with compassion, guessing the situation.
He laid it down gently, and again his face changed. The muscles of his jaw worked, and he struggled to control his voice. "Youíre right, Megan. It was real."
Impulsively, she laid her hand over his, and he smiled at her in acknowledgment.
Back in their hotel that night, Peter was recounting to Megan all the tests he had run that day, then said, "I locked it in the box and left it in the mobile lab. There are enough people there to make sure nothing happens to it." He slipped his hand in his pocket. "But Iíve got the key!" and he tossed it in the air before locking it in his suitcase.
"Have you been able to reach any conclusions yet?" Megan asked.
"No, but the data need correlating." He sighed. "Itís at times like this that I miss Lindsayís input. Sheís the best Data Analyst there is."
"Well, Peter, why donít you just e-mail her the data? She might be able to make some order of it."
He looked at Megan in surprise. "Iíll do it the first thing in the morning! Now, why didnít I think of that?"
She cocked her head, a smug expression on her face. "Superior intelligence?"
Peterís laugh exploded in one big "Ha!" Then he gave her an impish look. "Okay, granted. ButĖdonít tell anyone I admitted it, will you? Iím supposed to be the resident geek of this outfit."
Megan laughed and kissed him. "Well, I donít know. How are you going to keep me quiet?"
Her laughter was abruptly stiffled when he demonstrated in the time-honored tradition.
"Mm, I love you, Meggie," he whispered.