From their vantage point opposite the Museum, Rick and Evie O'Connell shrunk back into the shadows and watched their friend escort Jessica out of the building and down a nearby street.
"Well, so far, so good," Rick commented quietly to his wife. "He's walking her home."
"I wonder what he said to persuade her," Evie mused. "She was adamant about staying earlier when I suggested she come with us."
Rick chuckled. "Knowing Ardeth, I'd say it was probably to the point, whatever it was. Tact isn't his strong point."
"Well, you'd know all about lack of subtlety, dear," she teased with a smile.
"Very funny," he muttered, giving her a hurt look that just made her grin even wider. He shook his head then turned back to watch the other couple who were now almost out of sight. "OK, let's get moving," he ordered as he grabbed her hand. "We don't want to lose them."
Steathily, they left the protection of the darkness and began to tail the couple.
The silvered glow of the moon was their only light as Ardeth and Jessica walked briskly towards her home, side by side. It was obvious that she wanted to be rid of his company as soon as possible and under normal circumstances he would have been more than happy to oblige. She was too cold and condescending for his taste.
The warrior glanced over at his reluctant companion and sighed inwardly. He hated any kind of subterfuge but realised that on this occasion, until they were certain of their facts, his usual way of barging in with a few of his men wouldn't be wise.
As Rick had pointed out only a couple of days before, if Dorling did have the artefact then they'd still have the element of surprise. The added bonus was that if he didn't have it, then the real thieves wouldn't be alerted to the fact that the Medjai were in town and on their trail.
"My house is just down the end of this street, Mr. Bay," Jessica suddenly said, breaking into his thoughts. She stopped walking and turned to him, a polite, but blatantly false smile on her lips. "You really don't have to come any further with me, I'll be perfectly fine now, thank you very much."
Feeling very much like a dismissed servant, Ardeth's patience with her rudeness suddenly snapped and he straightened up to his full height. Looking down on her five foot seven frame, he told her curtly, "I'll leave you after I've seen you safely into your house and not a moment before."
Her defiant gaze clashed with his determined one and to his surprise, she backed down.
"Very well, if that's how you feel," she muttered stiffly, before turning away and continuing to walk.
He stared after her for a few moments then jogged a few steps to catch her up, before slowing to walk by her side again. As they approached her house, she looked up and frowned, coming almost to a halt.
"What's the matter?" he asked, seeing the look on her face. "Is something wrong?"
He followed her gaze to the quiet building, but didn't see anything out of place.
"I'm not sure. Usually, Michael leaves a light on somewhere in the house but tonight it's completely dark," she said in a puzzled tone then shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe he's gone to bed early for a change."
Before he could say anything she marched up to the door and pulled a key out of her pocket. As soon as she went to unlock the door, it moved inwards slightly.
Ardeth immediately went on alert and put a hand out to stop her from going any further. "Maybe it would be wiser to let me go in first."
She looked at him worriedly and nodded, stepping back to allow him entrance. He pulled out the scimitar sheathed on his left side, and held it at the ready as he pushed the door further open. The hinges creaked sending an echo throughout the house. After a quick glance and nod at Jessica, he cautiously entered the building.
He moved slowly, letting his eyes adjust to the gloom, intently listening for the slightest sound. Systematically, he checked each room, switching lights on as he went. Finding nothing, he went back to the front door where Jessica was waiting impatiently.
"Well?" she hissed with a frown, looking over his shoulder. "Did you find anything? Where's Michael?"
"He's gone," he replied curtly, smoothly sheathing his sword.
"Gone?" she repeated in confusion. "What do you mean gone?" She pushed passed him and began calling her husbands name.
Ardeth grabbed her arm to stop her, then pulled a letter from his belt and held it out to her. "I found this in your bedroom."
She looked down at the envelope addressed to her and saw that it was her husband's handwriting. Ardeth released her arm and she hesitantly took the letter from his grasp. Turning it over she saw that it wasn't sealed. "You opened it," she accused, gazing up at the warrior angrily.
When he looked back impassively, she turned on her heel and strode along the corridor into the kitchen. He stared after her retreating figure then walked back to the front door and went into the street. "Are you there, my friends?" he called quietly.
Rick and Evie emerged from the shadows of a house across the road and made their way over. "What's happening?" Rick asked.
"Dorling has already gone," Ardeth told him worriedly. "My guess is that he left for Karnak early this morning, which will give him nearly a day's head start."
"Then we'll have to get after him tonight," Evie decided determinedly. She looked up at her friend. "Rick and I will go home and get some provisions together for the journey. You go back to Jessica and persuade her to come along. She'll be valuable when we reach, Michael. I think he'll listen to her more than us."
Ardeth nodded then watched the O'Connell's walk quickly away. Turning back to the house, Evie's words came back to him. "Persuade her to come along." Just like that.
He shook his head and snorted derisively. Didn't she remember who she was talking about? This was Jessica. The woman who could freeze water just by glancing briefly at it. Drag her kicking and screaming would have been a more accurate description.
With a sigh of resignation, he squared his shoulders and entered the house, feeling as though he were going into battle.
A few miles outside of Cairo in a makeshift tent, Michael Dorling suddenly sat bolt upright and let out a scream of pure terror. He frantically clutched at his throat and face then looked down at his hands, avidly searching for any sign of blood.
Seeing nothing, his heart started to slow its painfully throbbing beat and, after wiping some of the sweat dripping from his brow, he gave a relieved laugh. It was just a nightmare. A bad nightmare.
He reached out and picked up a battered briefcase that lay on the ground next to him and opened it up. He pulled out a slim golden canister and a small, dark blue marble statue in the form of a ram, then placed the bag back on the floor.
Very carefully, he stood the statue on top of the bag and bowed his head. "We're nearly there my Lord. Just three more days before we reach Karnak where I shall perform the ceremony which will restore you to your rightful place among the Gods."
He held up the canister and unscrewed the cap from one end. Turning it upside down, he caught hold of the roll of paper that fell out and uncurled it. He read the ancient writing through twice then, with a satisfied smile, he rolled the paper up and put it back into it's container.
Laying back down, he shut his eyes and tried to blot out the image of the 'thing' that had chased him through his dream. It had been a black mass with no defining shape or face and it'd moved with incredible speed. So fast that he'd been unable to outrun it no matter how hard he tried. As it had borne down on him, he'd been floored by a heavy weight, that had made him immobile. Fearfully, he'd stared up at the mass only to have a flash of silver blind him momentarily as it swept down towards his face, then everything had turned red.
Turning onto his side, Dorling tried to forget all about his nightmare and go back to sleep unaware that, as it watched over him, the eyes of the statue briefly glowed a rich blue then faded back to normal.
END PART 2