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Authors: Alexander Marmer

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Chapter 7

Cairo, Egypt

Monday, September 18

10:14 a.m.

 

M
ichael Doyle was sitting in the back seat of a taxi on his way to the Anglo-American Hospital Zohoreya
.
He checked his watch. His young driver, Ahmoud, was busily navigating his way through Cairo’s crowded streets, but the trip to visit Schulze in the hospital was taking longer than Michael had anticipated.

Despite being eager to continue his long-awaited Egyptian vacation that he had fantasized about exploring since his early teenage years, Michael felt it was necessary to follow up and make sure nothing untoward had occurred. Deep in his heart he hoped to find Schulze well. He was also hoping that all his talk about being poisoned had been a vivid figment of Schulze’s heat-addled imagination.

His first surprise took the form of Cairo’s infamous traffic. For a big city, such as Cairo, traffic is a major issue and even a typical day’s navigating is not an easy procedure. Considered the largest city in Africa, Cairo is home to at least eighteen million people. As its streets are already clogged with stop-and-go traffic, it is good news that not every family has a car.

Abruptly, Ahmoud made a right hand turn and sped down a narrow street where all the other headlights were pointed the wrong way. When he looked in the rear view mirror and saw Michael scowling, Ahmoud laughed and pointedly reminded him that while many streets are marked as one-way, this rule is not always respected. Further, as Michael soon observed, red lights do not necessarily mean “stop”, or for that matter even “slow down.” Cars flooded through the red lights with their horns blaring to warn anyone foolish enough to consider getting in their way. In Cairo it is the worst of mistakes to believe that a green “walk” light indicates it is safe for pedestrians to cross the road. Michael shook his head as a couple of tourists almost learned that lesson the hard way. He realized that the overriding rule seemed to be for everyone to make use of every bit of available space. Many of the streets lacked lane markers, but the ones that were there were simply ignored. The only time a driver seemed to stop is when there was absolutely no way to squeeze around whoever was in front or to either side of them.

If Schulze had any chance of surviving, he would have needed to be transported to the hospital within the so-called “golden hour,” the first hour after a trauma where a majority of critical patient’s lives can be saved if definitive medical intervention is provided. As he stared out his smudged window at the gridlock of packed, honking cars, Michael had a dismal feeling. The one-hour time frame sounded like it would have necessitated a miracle.

Michael was snapped out of his musings when he realized his taxi was driving between two lanes of stopped cars. Blasting his horn and gesturing, Ahmoud laughed again at Michael’s panicked expression. “This is not considered rude or in any way out of place,” the native Egyptian stated with irony. “Nobody respects the traffic regulations. Everybody simply goes his own way. It takes hours and hours to go anywhere. But don’t worry! I’ll get you there in one piece.”

As Michael’s cab driver turned his attention back to the road, he was able to edge the cab forward a few more car lengths before becoming trapped once again. Ahmoud leaned out his window and began having a lively conversation with a driver in the neighboring vehicle. Michael’s thoughts started drifting away from his current plight of being stuck in traffic. He was happy at finally being in Egypt and seeing the pyramids, even if it was a bit briefer than he would have liked. However, the morning’s incident was seared into his thoughts. He could not shake the strange statements Schulze had made to him nor the lingering sense of unease. Something was not right, but he doubted he had even half the pieces of this puzzle. Hopefully, Schulze would survive and would be able to shed some light on this morning’s events.

As the taxi inched along, Michael thought about how he had performed CPR that morning. While he was stationed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, he had trained during the Iraqi war pre-deployment Combat Life Saving Course. But today was the second time he had performed CPR in a real life-or-death situation.

In March 2003, his unit was one of the first to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His deployment had occurred near the end of his military days; for six years he had been enlisted in the U.S. Army before retiring at the rank of Sergeant. It was that one-year deployment, “the twelve months boots-on-the-ground,” that had taken a great toll on his mother’s health, as he was her only child. He knew there was not a single day that passed without her fearing for the worst.

It was in July of 2003 when his mother’s worst fears nearly came to pass. Michael was one of the five soldiers inside a Humvee. They had assumed a nearby vehicle was merely parked until a rocket-propelled grenade was launched at them from it. Then it immediately sped away. Michael was the luckiest of all due to his position on top as a gunner. He received only a few non-life-threatening injuries from the blast, while it killed two of his comrades instantly. The soldier sitting next to the driver had been thrown through the window and knocked unconscious. The driver was saved by Michael’s swift actions. His training kicked in when he saw the driver’s left arm severed and bleeding heavily. He quickly applied a tourniquet and tirelessly began performing CPR while waiting for the rescue helicopter. Thankfully, his buddy had lived to go home. And now he hoped that Schulze would as well.

The taxi crawled its way to the hospital. He looked up at the overpass of El-Tahrir Street. It looked peaceful with only several people walking and a parked vehicle. Suddenly Michael’s body shook from the abrupt explosion; his eyes discerned a fire spreading throughout the vehicle as a sharp, penetrating pain ripped up his right leg. “We’re hit!” His shout came automatically. The Humvee tilted heavily to its left but miraculously avoided rolling over as it was counterbalanced by the weight of its fifty-caliber gun. While the gun turret, located on the top of the vehicle, swayed from side to side, Michael clung to the gun as the vehicle settled. Michael’s breath caught in his throat as he realized that had the muzzle of his .50 Cal been turned the other way, a rollover would have been imminent. The chance of any of them surviving would have been slim to none.

Michael managed to pry open one of the damaged upper armored doors and crawl outside the burning vehicle. He instinctively pulled and crawled himself away from the fire-engulfed vehicle, dragging his injured leg behind him. The first thought that came to his mind,
I’m alive!
was soon forgotten when he turned back and saw the remains of the medium-sized RPG penetrated halfway through the right side of his Humvee. Michael rushed back to burning vehicle.

“Preston! Are you all right?” Michael yelled as he yanked the door open and pulled the driver out of the burning vehicle. Private First Class Preston, fresh out of Basic Training and a country boy from Boise, Idaho, had no response. Seeing that Preston had lost an arm in the blast, Michael dragged his body to safety. Ripping off his belt, Michael quickly tied a makeshift tourniquet around the bloody remains. Then he looked at Preston’s chest. To his horror there was no motion or any other signs of breathing. Falling back on his training, Michael immediately started the CPR process. Soon he felt the rising and falling of the driver’s chest.

“So, how do you like Cairo?” the driver asked abruptly, glancing back at Michael. Blinking the glaring sun out of his eyes, Michael glanced at him in disbelief.
What? But…how? A minute ago, he had no signs of life, and now he’s asking this nonsense? E
gypt?”

“My friend, hello,” Ahmoud was now giving Michael a lop-sided smile in the rearview mirror, “you like Egyptian traffic?”

Michael looked through the side window and refocused on the Nile River they were crossing atop the El-Galaa Bridge. “Nnn o,” Michael stuttered.
Oh my God!
It took Michael a couple seconds for his mind to refocus. He was in Cairo, not Baghdad. He took a deep, shaky breath of hot Egyptian air and gritted his teeth.
These flashbacks, I can’t keep having them. It’s over and I’m safe
now.

Once the taxi crossed over the Nile, which surrounds Gezira Island, they emerged at the entrance to the island. Almost instantaneously, the traffic faded away. Michael caught a glimpse of the outlines of the Cairo Tower, the famous freestanding concrete TV tower located in the Zamalek district on Gezira Island. At 187 meters, the Cairo Tower is 43 meters higher than the Great Pyramid of Giza, which stands some 15 kilometers to the southwest. The distance, however, felt a lot farther considering the amount of time they had been trapped in traffic.

The cab made a sharp left turn onto Om Kalthum Street and passed the Cairo Opera House. The splendid Opera House complex housed multiple galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art, a variety of restaurants and concert halls. The funds for the Opera House were a gift from the nation of Japan to Egypt after the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Japan in April of 1983. Michael was excited to see the Opera House in person as he planned to see one of its productions during his vacation. “Swan Lake,” a ballet composed by the Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky about Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse was indisputably Michael’s favorite.

The taxi finally pulled over at hospital. He exited the cab, giving Ahmoud a tip for safely navigating him through Cairo’s crazy traffic and then made his way into the emergency room entrance.

The registration clerk looked up when Michael reached the counter. “I’m here to visit a patient, Günther Schulze,” Michael said. The clerk checked the files and politely asked Michael what his relationship was with the patient.

“He is my friend,” replied Michael. He paused and added, “Well, he’s not really my friend. I just met him today.”

“Ok, mister…” the clerk paused for a second, looking at him expectantly.

“Doyle,” said Michael.

“Yes, Mr. Doyle,” the clerk paused and then gently apprised him, “Unfortunately, Mr. Schulze passed away.”

“Oh my God, really?” exclaimed Michael in a state of shock.
I was hoping for a miracle. But he did have a pulse when he was loaded inside the ambul
ance
.

“Can you please tell me how he died?” Michael asked.

After checking the hospital records, the clerk said, “Heart attack.”

“Heart attack?” Michael was shocked and confused. Even though he had mentally prepared himself for the worst news possible, it had not seemed like a heart attack at the time.

“Yes, sir, definitely a heart attack,” confirmed the clerk. “That’s exactly what it says in our records,” he looked up at Michael, his eyes soft with compassion. “I’m sorry, sir.”

How is that possible?
Michael gripped the counter in disbelief, trying to grasp the meaning of the clerk’s words and the reality of the situation. He retreated into his thoughts, trying to recall the details from earlier.
Where the hell did a heart attack come from? Schulze clearly told me he had been poisoned. Was he hallucinating? I don’t think so. Something is definitely not r
ight
.

“Mr. Doyle,” the clerk called Michael’s name, bringing him back from the labyrinth of his thoughts. “The family has been notified and his wife is flying in from Germany, but that is all I know.”

From the depths of his heart, Michael wished to inform the clerk that Schulze had told him that he had been poisoned. But he decided not to start a panic or, even worse, suspicious questions. After all, they were doctors and definitely knew more about medicine than he did.
I didn’t know this man at all, and I am not gonna to get myself involved in any dirty games being played—whether by Schulze or the hospital.
Michael was not about to waste any more of his long-awaited vacation. But all the same, he felt he should at least talk to Schulze’s wife to let her know what had happened.

“Can you please give his wife my phone number?”

“Yes, certainly sir.”

Michael quickly scribed his hotel’s phone number on a piece of paper the clerk offered him. Thinking she might want to meet with him, he added his room number as well and handed the paper to the clerk. In a fog of thoughts, he turned and slowly walked out the entrance and sat down on a nearby bench. His mind was back inside the Grand Gallery of Khufu’s pyramid.

“I was poisoned!” Schulze’s whispered voice echoed over and over again throughout the Grand Gallery.
And, now they say it was a heart attack
? Michael tried in vain to come up with a possible explanation for the discrepancy.
Well,
I’m sure there are poisons that fool even well trained doc
tors.

Chapter 8

Cairo Police station, Egypt

Monday, September 18

12:30 p.m.

 

V
isibly satisfied, Inspector Suliman of the Cairo Police Department hung up the phone after a call from his old friend, Jibade, the Chief of the local Medjay tribe. The Medjay Chief’s news had made his day. If he were to recover the missing stele, a prized ancient Egyptian artifact, it would be the highlight of his career. Known as a hunter, not only within the police department, but also among the criminal elements, Suliman had chased and successfully recovered numerous ancient Egyptian artifacts throughout his time on the force.

“Egyptian heritage belongs to Egypt” was the motto that gave purpose to his law enforcement career. He had spent the last fifteen years preserving Egyptian heritage by catching smugglers of antiquities. His otherwise stellar career with the Cairo Police had been sullied over the last few years due to a corruption scandal involving a large portion of the top brass. Even though there had been no evidence of the inspector’s involvement, it was hard for him to dodge all of the allegations directed at him by a few influential individuals. The inspector had a reputation for being a ruthless interrogator, which usually had advantageous results. In this instance, however, the accusations, combined with his interrogation methods, put a dark blemish on his admirable career. To avoid unwanted attention, Inspector Suliman had stepped away from the spotlight entirely and begun leading a secluded life. He no longer involved himself in trials that made front-page newspaper news, but instead devoted himself to routine police work that involved petty cases and everyday criminals. He had waited patiently in the shadows for a case that would restore his career to its limelight.

Finally, it had come knocking on his door: the case of a lifetime. The Medjay chief’s phone call was the opportunity for which he had been waiting all these years. The chief had assisted him on a previous case involving a missing tribesman, and they had become friends. And now the chief was calling and asking him for a favor. He needed the inspector’s assistance in finding the missing stele that had been safely guarded by the Medjay tribe for generations. The Medjay chief decided not to go into all the details surrounding the mysterious way the sacred stele had initially gotten into the Medjay hands, preferring to give the explanation that stele had been used in Medjay traditional ceremonies for the last several thousand years and retained substantial spiritual significance to the tribe. The words “several thousand” made a distinct and lasting impression on the inspector, who had jumped at the chance. The Medjay chief had then explained that he believed a German engineer by the name of Günther Schulze was at fault and that he believed the German had a DHL receipt on him that might be important.

As soon as he got off the phone, Inspector Suliman started with the lone suspect, German engineer Günther Schulze. He and his right-hand man, Chief Detective Ashraf Hussein, began extensive research immediately. Deaths of foreigners were always reported to officials, and soon they were able to confirm that Schulze had died of a heart attack earlier that day at the Zohoreya Hospital.

The Inspector slowly rubbed his hands together. This was starting to get interesting. The lone suspect in the case was dead, and the inspector certainly did not believe in the cause of death for a moment. His gut told him that Schulze’s death was not a coincidence. Dispatching several of his best detectives to the Zohoreya Hospital, Inspector Suliman instructed them to probe deeper into Schulze’s sudden death.

The Inspector gave last-minute instructions to his Chief Detective Ashraf Hussein. “I don’t believe those medical records for a second. Search everything you can and explore every possible lead.”

About an hour later, Detective Hussein called from the hospital and informed his superior that the German engineer’s death was confirmed as a heart attack. Nothing suspicious or even interesting was found among his belongings besides a DHL postal receipt. The Inspector was amazed. He wondered how his friend, the local Chief of the Medjay, could have possibly known about the postal receipt inside Schulze’s wallet.

Detective Hussein also reported that based on the accounts of the paramedics who had delivered Schulze to the hospital, the German engineer reportedly had difficulty breathing before collapsing inside the Great Pyramid. His condition then deteriorated significantly on the way to the hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. In addition, the detective noted that someone had attempted to visit Schulze at the hospital, an American tourist by the name of Michael Doyle.

“Who is Michael Doyle?” demanded the Inspector.

“He came to the hospital after Schulze’s body arrived and asked about him.”

“Are they related?”

“No, Inspector, they are not. According to the hospital staff, the American said that Schulze was an acquaintance that he met earlier today.”

Inspector puzzled.
Earlier today
, he contemplated.
That’s kind of peculiar… hardly a long enough acquaintance to warrant a hospital visit…especially since the German died shortly thereafter. So, the American was the last person to see Schulze alive. Yet another doubtful coincid
ence!

“Detective Hussein, you need to find this American. He was the last person to see Schulze alive and could be connected to the theft of the stele,” Inspector Suliman paused briefly. “Now that I think about it, Schulze and the American probably stole the stele, quarreled about the money and the American killed him for it.”

“It is possible, Inspector,” Detective Hussein replied questioningly.

Inspector Suliman continued verbally running through his thoughts. “Or, maybe the American found out that Schulze stole the stele, confronted him and then killed him.”

“Inspector, the diagnosis of Schulze’s death is a heart attack. I doubt a heart attack warrants foul play,” reminded the detective.

“Right …” the inspector said pensively. Deep in thought, he preferred the first version of his own story. Regardless, he suspected that the American was involved in the theft of the stele—either directly or indirectly. However, the idea that appealed to the Inspector was where they quarreled about the money. “How can we find that American?” He barked.

“Inspector?” questioned the detective.

“Can anybody provide his description?” Inspector Suliman continued speaking over his subordinate, seeming not to hear him.

“Inspector, the American left his hotel information.”

“What?” the inspector was incredulous. “Why would he do that?”

Detective Hussein replied slowly and deliberately, “Inspector, the American is staying at the Cairo Downtown Hotel in room number thirty-six.”

Rubbing his hands together with satisfaction, the inspector smiled widely and shook his head. He could not believe it would be that easy. His only possible suspect was within his reach.
The American may or may not have the stele
. The Inspector, however, did not want to start an international incident, especially while he was still suffering from the fallout of the accusations from the smuggling incident. Since the American had so kindly left his coordinates, catching him was not his immediate concern. He would have time for that after he followed up on his other lead.

Locating the stele before it left the country was key or the chances of recovering it would go from slim to none. Not wanting to waste any more valuable time, Inspector Suliman directed his detective to go the post office listed on the receipt and get as much information as possible.

Soon thereafter his loyal Detective Hussein called. “The clerk at the DHL post office remembered Schulze when I showed him Schulze’s picture ID that I got out of his wallet. The clerk remembered him because at the time he was privately amused that Schulze was mailing some papyruses; actually just cheap imitations made out of banana leaves and commonly sold at the local souvenir shops. He recalled Schulze commenting that he was mailing the souvenirs to his daughter back in Germany. I’ve got a copy of the confirmation slip with the destination address listed as Berlin, Germany,” Detective Hussein slowly concluded his oral report.

BOOK: Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu
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