The Golden One: A Novel of Suspense
he want to ask me to arrange his release?” “I do not know. Have you another cigarette?” “You took all I had,” Ramses said. “Ah. Would you like one?” He extracted the tin and offered it. “Thank you, no. Keep them,” he added. The irony was wasted on Musa, who thanked him effusively, and held out a suggestive hand. “What shall I tell my master?” Ramses dropped a few coins into the outstretched palm, and cut short Musa’s pleas for more. “That I can’t do anything for him. Let el-Gharbi sweat it out in the camp for a few months. He’s too fat anyhow. And if I know him, he has his circle of supporters and servants even in Hilmiya, and methods of getting whatever he wants. How did he communicate with you?” “There are ways,” Musa murmured. “I’m sure there are. Well, give him my . . .” He tried to think of the right word. The only ones that came to mind were too friendly or too courteous. On the other hand, the procurer had been a useful source of information in the past, and might be again. “Tell him you saw me and that I asked after him.” He added a few more coins and went back to the hospital. Dr. Sophia greeted him with her usual smiling reserve. Ramses admired her enormously, but never felt completely at ease with her, though he realized there was probably nothing personal in her lack of warmth. She had to deal every day with the ugly results of male exploitation of women. It would not be surprising if she had a jaundiced view of all men. He met the new surgeon, a stocky, gray-haired American woman, who measured him with cool brown eyes before offering a handclasp as hard as that of most men. Ramses had heard Nefret congratulating herself on finding Dr. Ferguson. There weren’t many women being trained in surgery. On the other hand, there weren’t many positions open to women surgeons. Ferguson had worked in the slums of Boston, Massachusetts, and according to Nefret she had expressed herself as more concerned with saving abused women than men who were fool enough to go out and get themselves shot. She and Sophia ought to get along. As Ramses had rather expected, Nefret decided to spend the rest of the day at the hospital. She was in her element, with two women who shared her skills and her beliefs, and Ramses felt a faint, unreasonable stir of jealousy. He kissed her good-bye and saw her eyes widen with surprise and pleasure; as a rule he didn’t express affection in public. It had been a demonstration of possessiveness, he supposed. Walking back toward the hotel, head bent and hands in his pockets, he examined his feelings and despised himself for selfishness. At least he hadn’t insisted she wait for him to escort her back to the hotel. She’d have resented that. No one in el-Wasa would have dared lay a hand on her, but it made him sick to think of her walking alone through those noisome alleys, at a time of day when the houses would be opening for business and the women would be screaming obscene invitations at the men who leered at them through the open windows. His parents were already at the hotel, and when he saw what his mother had found that morning, he forgot his grievances for a while. The little ointment jar was in almost perfect condition, and he was inclined to agree with her that the scraps of jewelry — beads, half of a gold-hinged bracelet, and an exquisitely inlaid uraeus serpent — had come from the same Eighteenth Dynasty tomb Cyrus had told them about. “Aslimi claimed the seller was unknown to him?” he asked. “That’s rather odd. He has his usual sources and would surely be suspicious of strangers.” “Aslimi would not dare lie to me,” his mother declared. She gave her husband a challenging glance. Emerson did not venture to contradict her. He had something else on his mind. “Er — I trust you and Nefret have given up the idea of visiting the coffeeshops?” “I wasn’t keen on the idea in the first place,” Ramses said. “Well. No need for

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