Ravenwood Dig, Jerusalem, 1923
The sun sank behind the dusty hills of Abner Ravenwood's dig, touching the horizon with molten gold. A whistle blew, and the digging crews and students downed tools with a collective sigh of relief.
The diggers sat in small groups, talking and passing water skins or cigarettes. The students and crew chiefs gathered around their dig supervisor, Dr. Harold Oxley, to recap their progress and make plans for the next day. 'The Ox' had studied with Dr. Ravenwood and was back this summer, newly -minted PhD in hand, for his first professional job. He served as Abner's chief assistant and right hand man. Oxley in turn had the assistance of his friend and boon companion, one Henry 'Indiana' Jones. This was Indiana's last dig with the University of Chicago-he was leaving in a few weeks to begin his own D. Phil. at the University of Paris.
A digger approached the group of students and bowed courteously to Oxley.
"Your pardon, Dr. Ox, but may I speak with Rashid?"
"By all means, Tariq" Ox answered courteously. One of 'Dr. Ox's' firm rules was that "a gentleman speaks to a laborer with the same courtesy he would employ to a Duke." The undergraduates were getting a little tired of hearing it.
Tariq and Rashid joined a group smoking at the edge of the dig. The men spoke in low-voiced Arabic, taking care to keep the students from hearing.
"Do we take her tonight?" a stocky digger named Mahmoud asked.
Rashid nodded. "Yes. Ravenwood-pasha will not be back for two days. Dr. Ox may be in charge but he is a learned man, not a fighting man."
One of his companion objected. "But Mr. Indy is a fighting man."
"That's why it should be tonight," explained their leader. "Mr. Indy is going to the city tomorrow-Abdul is on his crew and he heard him talking."
Mahmoud looked thoughtful. "Mr. Indy may even be leaving tonight, in search of…such entertainment as young men enjoy."
"Then let us hope he doesn't end up at the same place we are taking the girl."
"Not likely," Tariq put in. He turned his head and spat. "Mr. Indy, if you please, says he 'doesn't care for the women in these parts'."
"Is that so?" asked another digger.
"Oh yes." Tariq answered. " I heard that before Ravenwood-pasha came, the young men went into the city. They were drinking and gambling, and Mr. Indy was asked why he didn't ...go upstairs.. with a girl. He was somewhat the worse for liquor, and he told the others some story about bedding a famous courtesan and how she spoiled him for ordinary women."
"Ah, Mr. Indy and his stories." Rashid smirked. "That one may or may not be true, but if he doesn't know where we're taking the girl... so much the better."
Rashid's gaze flicked back to Oxley and the students, then returned to his men. "So. Mahomoud-"he jerked his head- "wait till Mr. Indy isn't looking, then slip away to move the car. The rest of you-back to camp, in ones and twos, quietly. We wait for the girl by the wash tent as planned."
"And in a few days" he smiled wolfishly "we will be richer men- and far away from here..."
She was sick of the merciless heat. She was tired of the dust that seemed to get everywhere. And ye gods, ye gods, she was tired of cataloging artifacts. Marion Ravenwood sighed, and lifted her sweat-damp braid off the back of her neck. Other girls, she mused, spent their summers traveling to exotic places where there was actually some fun to be had, or being indulged by loving grandparents. Well, compared to Chicago, this corner of hell-and gone was exotic, she'd give it that. But spending hours at a worktable in a hot tent was hardly her idea of a swell time. And indulged? Hah! That was rich. Everyone here treated her like a kid, if they didn't want anything, or like a drudge if they did. And how had she gotten stuck with this crummy job, exactly? Oh yeah, something about a lopsided grin and a pair of hazel eyes belonging to her father's prize student….
"Awww, c'mon, Marion" Indiana coaxed, "help a fella out, wont you? You're so much better at cataloging than I am, and you're the only person here besides me who can read my handwriting. Whaddaya say?"
"Ish kabibble is what I say," Marion retorted. "Why should I give myself a headache deciphering those hieroglyphics you put in your field notebook, Indy? No, on second thought I think you write cuneiform-that mess isn't pretty enough to be hieroglyphics."
"Well," said Indy, ruthlessly upping the ante, "maybe you should care because tomorrow's my day off. If I'm not busy getting this lot ready to ship back to Chicago, I'll actually have time to drive to the city. And if I happen to owe someone a favor, I might be persuaded to let her tag along…."
Marion shook her head regretfully. "Nice try, Jones, but I'll just get in trouble for leaving camp."
"Oh no, you won't. Abe knows you're safe with me. We'll just tell him that I took you to oh, the Temple Mount or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Somewhere, y'know, educational. "
"Educational?" Marion laughed, and smiled at him the way that was beginning to get rather… interesting… reactions from boys back home. She tossed her head.
"You can tell Dad anything you like-but if I'm giving up my free time for you, mister, you'd better at least be taking me to lunch."
Indy paused, and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. His eyes lingered on her, as a slow, lazy grin spread on his face. "You know," he said at last, "I think I will. If you've got a dress, little lady, we've got a deal." He pushed his hat back and fired his parting shot. "And if you clean up nice enough, I'll even take you someplace with tablecloths."
Indy tipped his fedora in salute and ducked out of the tent,-probably off to shoot the bull by the campfire while someone passed a bottle around. She was pretty Abner was still in Jaffa-escorting that group from the Oriental Institute, wasn't he? Anyway, camp discipline did get a little lax whenever he was away. No skin off her nose, though, Marion figured. Abner had left 'the Ox' in charge and if he didn't mind the boys drinking she wasn't going to either. Besides, she had other fish to fry.
Marion sighed again and picked up her pencil. She wrote a number on a tag and attached it to a small oil lamp made of clay. She checked the number against a ledger, and double checked the ledger against the haphazard scrawl in Indy's notebook. She wrapped the lamp carefully, first in cotton wool, then in a square of oilcloth, and nestled it into a straw filled crate. Then she blew her fringe off her forehead and turned back to the table. There were more artifacts to come. Lots more.
Finished at last, Marion strode confidently toward the wash tent with her towel and clean clothes under her arm. It wasn't really a proper facility; just a makeshift shower some of the students had rigged at the outskirts of camp. Strictly speaking, she wasn't supposed to use it. But really, she was Ravenwood-pasha's daughter and she should be allowed a few little privileges in return for all her hard work. It wasn't like anyone was paying her, or giving her a scholarship, after all. Besides, she always took her shower before the crews were back so she could wash up in privacy, and she was careful to leave everything the way she found it. Nobody probably even knew she'd been there. And today a shower was a necessity –there was no way she could look good enough for a day in the city on what she could do with just a pitcher and basin in her tent.
A day in the city! It shimmered in her mind like an oasis from the drudgery of her camp life. She could almost feel the cool, fan-stirred air of a fashionable restaurant and hear the muted clink of silver and china. There would be crisp white tablecloths, starched napkins, and perhaps an impeccably dressed waiter bearing a glass of iced lemonade. Not to mention, she thought smugly, a tall, handsome escort, who cleaned up pretty nice himself.
Come to think of it, Indy would probably let her order wine if she could be nonchalant about it. He might not even notice-Marion smiled wickedly to herself- if she got him to telling one of his stories first. And after lunch, Indy would offer her his arm, like she really was grown up, and they could stroll through the district around Government House. She was willing to bet they could find a bookseller's, and maybe a confectioner's, too…
Marion came back to earth abruptly when she saw the knot of diggers-back early, that was odd- who were gathered around a prostrate man. She didn't understand every word they said, but she heard enough to worry her. She stepped closer, concerned.
"Miss Marion!" one of the men she recognized called in heavily accented English.
"Tariq? Nidal?" she answered in her halting Arabic, "What's wrong? Is he hurt? Do you want me to go for help?" She leaned in to take a look at the injured man -and gasped as many hands grasped her and a greasy rag was clamped firmly over her nose and mouth. The world spun, tilted and blinked out.
A Model T, hidden behind the wash tent sputtered to life and slid out, Marion's unconscious body was bundled into the back seat.
A stocky young Arab digger, obviously on his way to wash up, changed course and hurried to approach them.
"What's happened? What is wrong with Miss Marion?" he called.
"She's fallen ill." Rashid answered shortly. "We are taking her to her father." The door slammed, and the car sped off with a grind of gears and a belch of black smoke
The young digger stared after them with a thoughtful frown. Something..wasn't right about this.
Ravenwood-pasha wasn't back, true. But if the girl were truly ill, why weren't they taking her to Dr. Ox-or to Fatima, the cook, well-known for her knowledge of healing and midwifery?
Sallah Mohammed Faisel el-Kahir remembered the rumors he'd heard about Rashid and his friends. He tasted sour bile at he back of his throat as he realized what he'd seen. Then he set off at a dead run, headed for the large tent at the center of camp.
"Dr. Ox! Mr. Indy!"