Nimrod picked at the food on his plate with obvious distaste. Magnus, Dr. Fletcher, and several other archaeologists, some with their wives, pretended not to notice as the tension continued to rise in the main tent.
"Well," Dr. Fletcher said finally, setting down his fork and knife and turning to Nimrod. "Magnus has led me to believe that you're the son of Ayesha and Kenny Godwin."
"That's true," Nimrod said cautiously his head still bent down, unwilling to let on that he was a djinn when he still had no idea if everyone at the table were also djinn, or at the very least, knew that Dr. Fletcher and his children were djinn.
Dr. Fletcher nodded, seeming quite nostalgic. "I know that your mother has gone into international justice," The very fact that Dr. Fletcher didn't mention that Ayesha was now the Blue Djinn led Nimrod to believe that some people at the table did not, in fact, know of the djinn. "But whatever happened to your father? I haven't heard from him in a dog's age!"
Now Nimrod leveled his gaze to look Dr. Fletcher in the eye. "My father vanished about ten years ago," Nimrod said coldly.
Dr. Fletcher was immediately sheepish. "Oh," he said. "That would explain why your sister answered the telephone."
Nimrod didn't reply to that, but suffered to take another bite of food.
"In any case," Magnus said, clearing his throat loudly, as if to assert his presence, "Nimrod, tell them how you ended up alone in the desert in the first place." Magnus turned to the rest of the company, once again grinning like an idiot. "It's amazing!" he assured them.
Throwing a nasty look Magnus' way, (which Magnus pretended not to notice) Nimrod launched into his somewhat ridiculous story of crashing his aeroplane on a nearby dune.
"That's strange," said Dr. Baker, one of the younger Egyptologists, and a fierce Englishman, "I didn't see any such aeroplane crash-land nearby recently,"
Implying that there had been aeroplane crashes nearby in the past, Nimrod thought disdainfully. "Perhaps you were looking the other way when the flaming wreckage crashed into the sand," he said aloud, just as disdainfully.
Dr. Baker looked hurt, too hurt to continue on arguing, but he didn't need to, because another one of the Egyptologists spoke up.
"Doctor Baker is correct," this time, Dr. Jones, a much older man, was challenging Nimrod's story. "None of us saw an aeroplane crashing in the desert, nor any human body floating down attached to an open parachute."
"Well I didn't exactly float down," retorted Nimrod, annoyed. "most of the way I was free-falling, and it was only when I was about eighty feet up that I got my parachute to open up. It had gotten stuck, you see."
"Nevertheless," Dr. Jones continued, "I doubt that there is any actual plane wreckage out there in the desert, as you claim there is."
"Well, there is!" Nimrod insisted. "I could show you right now, if you'd like." Nimrod's tone of voice was so challenging, Dr. Fletcher felt obliged to intervene.
"Yes, yes, Nimrod. No one doubts that there is indeed wreckage of your aeroplane out there."
"I do," chorused several of the assembled company, including Drs. Jones and Baker. Dr. Fletcher ignored them.
"I'm sure that it will be there tomorrow morning. Will it not, Nimrod?"
Nimrod nodded, noting that Dr. Fletcher's words seemed to have a double meaning. He highly suspected that it had something to do with the fact that Dr. Fletcher's daughter was out in the desert, having her djinn initiation. Vaguely, Nimrod wondered if his sister had popped out of her lamp yet. "Oh, the wreckage will still be there. If it doesn't sink into the sand."
The remainder of the meal was spent in the same tense silence as it had begun with, until finally, Dr. Fletcher announced that he was finished, and rose from the table.
Magnus and Nimrod quickly followed suit, and Magnus led Nimrod towards a much smaller green tent, evidently the tent occupied by the three Fletchers was proven further by the presence of two cots and an empty corner. Dr. Fletcher flicked his hand in the direction of the empty corner, muttering his focus word as he did so. A moment later, a cot, the exact shade of green as the tent walls, appeared from out of thin air.
"Make yourself comfortable, Nimrod," Dr. Fletcher said absent-mindedly, turning to a foldable desk heaped with papers and a few scattered Egyptian artifacts. Carefully, Nimrod set his suitcase on the cot and looked over at Magnus. Magnus had already lain down on his own cot, looking so comfortable that Nimrod suspected him of years of practise, and had taken out a thin volume, which he was reading with apparent interest.
Nimrod tilted his head to read the title: Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet. Magnus seemed to be nearly finished with the book, for another moment later, he turned the page, then shut the little volume to look up at Nimrod, who was still staring curiously.
"I always read these books whenever I visit father," Magnus explained quietly, respectful of Dr. Fletcher, who had, by now, sat down in front of the foldable desk and was muttering to himself.
"Don't they get boring after a while?" Nimrod asked. He'd only read the entire Sherlock Holmes series once, and while he'd enjoyed it moderately, he knew that he wouldn't go back and reread them over and over, as Magnus apparently had. Magnus shrugged.
"I guess. But I don't have much else to read, do I?" Magnus seemed nonchalant, but his true feelings showed through when, after a pause, he asked, "You don't happen to have any other books, do you?"
Nimrod shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure. I packed in a bit of a hurry."
"It couldn't hurt to look, could it?" Magnus encouraged eagerly. Nimrod sighed and opened his suitcase, the lid of which flew up so quickly that it almost hit Nimrod on the nose. Right on top was Nimrod's copy of Treasure Island, looking old and worn: it had belonged to Nimrod's father before him, and had evidently been well-loved. Nimrod himself had only read the book once, seeing no point in reading it a second time, but the reason he kept it was to have something of his father's to hold on to. Just in case he ever did come back.
"Here you are," Nimrod said, tossing the book over to Magnus, who caught it easily, and immediately began to read.
"Thanks," he said, and for the rest of the evening, Nimrod felt more ignored than he had in all of his young djinn life. He was also quite a bit more bored than he'd ever felt before, as well.
Finally, with a great, exaggerated sigh that went completely ignored by the two Fletchers, Nimrod dragged out his big atlas and tried to think where else he could go that was of interest to him. Nimrod supposed that he could always just go to Cairo, but that seemed awfully close, and in any case, he'd already seen what he had come to Egypt to see. New York City was also a possibility, but Nimrod didn't want to seem that he was copying his sister by going to the United States.
After much dithering, Nimrod decided that he could go to Cairo, after all. He hated even the idea of being thought of as a copycat, and resolved to figure out how he could pull off staying in Egypt without Layla figuring it out. The first step, he decided, would be to tell Magnus that he was headed back to England, to throw off suspicion. Then, there would be the matter of a wardrobe change, and possibly a remodeling of his nationality.
Nimrod decided that if he was to remain in Egypt, then he would have to become an Egyptian himself.