Romance Versus Relics Chapter 12

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  • 1.
    Welcome to chapter twelve! Nellie is on her way to Egypt. What adventures will she find there? Will her life get easier, or more complicated as time moves on? Hopefully you will find this chapter as much fun to read as I did to write! Thank you for continuing this journey along with Nellie and me. We hope you enjoy the adventure! Now, let's get on with the show.
    Note: For those who may not know, CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer. It is a term used later in this chapter.

    As Nellie gazed out her plane window at the landscape of Egypt, she marveled at how dry and barren most everything looked, except for that which followed the path of the river. This led her to thinking about her life and how dry and barren certain aspects of it was, especially the part concerning a love life. Before Ho Sung, she had never given much thought to that sort of thing, but after having known him and allowing him to get inside her heart, as well as into her bed, things seemed to have changed for her. Now it seemed as if her body had begun to crave to be touched the way Ho Sung had touched her. Nellie was coming to the conclusion that, although the emotional part had hurt her, she could very much use a bit more of the physical part.
    Nellie also knew that being near Gustav Delven was the catalyst that had brought her realizations to life. The mere nearness of the man seemed to turn the blood in her veins to liquid fire which burned with a ferocity that could only be quenched by his touch, or maybe another man's touch. Nellie was not sure which, but she was certain she wanted to feel, again, the way Ho Sung had made her feel during their one night of steamy passion together.

    Nellie had been so absorbed in her thoughts that the flight attendant had to come tell her the plane had landed and it was time to disembark. Even now, as she made her way to the address Francois Lambert had given her, she could not shake the troubled thoughts and mixed emotions that plagued her heart and mind. She was coming to realize that she was lonely. Although she enjoyed exploring alone, she longed for someone special with whom to share her experiences. Nellie missed China and her friend, Zhan and she desperately missed what had been blossoming between Ho Sung and herself. At the same time, she was already missing France and her budding relationship with Gustav Delven. She felt as if her heart had connected somewhat with his when she had heard the story of his troubled childhood. Feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and longing threatened to overwhelm her.
    " No!" she growled to herself. " I will not allow myself to fall apart at this point in time! I am on an adventure, and I need to remain focused." Nellie, the avid adventurer, forced all the bad stuff into the back of her mind, to be dealt with later, and determinedly moved toward her current destination.

    Nellie found Francois Lambert's Egyptologist friend, Fatima Amin, rather quickly and introduced herself, unsurprised that the French Special Merchant's friend happened to be the Egyptian Special Merchant. After telling the woman what she was after, Nellie eagerly awaited her response, and was relieved when one came quickly.
    " Yes, I would be willing to help you, but first you need to help me. Bring me five Cerambryx Beetles from France for my research. You are clearly a woman of travel, so that will not be so hard for you, will it?"
    Laughing, Nellie reached into her bag and brought out the insects she had collected in France before leaving and handed them to the woman.

    " Ah, I see you have come prepared" the woman smiled. " Francois Lambert knows me well! Thank you for your help." She set the insects aside and continued, " History tells us that, centuries ago, Jean Necteaux lived in Al Simhara, Egypt for some time before running back to France with the Pharaoh's daughter, with whom he fell in love. According to myth, when they left, they stole three mystical gems that were going to be used to make a new crown for the Pharaoh. Perhaps these are the gems of your riddle."
    " I find all this simply fascinating" Nellie responded. " It is always exciting to learn about the history and cultures of other lands." She nodded a greeting and smiled at the man and child who had come out of the house, Fatima's husband and son, Nellie guessed.

    The woman smiled and continued, " Go speak with the Al Simhara Relic Merchant, Fahad Madbouli, who follows the less than . . . wholesome markets on these things and may know something."
    " Thank you so very much for your help" Nellie smiled. She turned to leave, but the woman stopped her.
    " Wait!" she exclaimed. " There is something else you should know. Delving into the black market is not the only unwholesome thing about Fahad Madbouli. Watch out for him! Not only is he unscrupulous, but he is unsavory. He has a wife and a brood of little ones, yet he has a roving eye as well as roaming hands!"

    Nellie stood in the center of the Al Simhara Marketplace gathering the strength she knew she would need in order to deal with a man like the Relic Merchant. Though she had been to the place before, she had never met Fahad Madbouli, and after hearing what Fatima Amin had to say about him, she wished she did not have to meet him now. Always trying to look on the bright side, Nellie told herself that, perhaps, he was not quite as bad the Special Merchant had said.
    The day was not getting any younger, so Nellie took a deep breath, sighed, and then made her way toward the Relic Merchant's shop. If the air had been stifling in the heat outside the shop, it was nearly non-existent inside. Reluctantly, she made her way toward the man, and he turned to face her as she approached.


    " Well, what have here?" the Relic Merchant said as he slowly eyed up and down Nellie's body. The young woman's skin crawled as she suddenly felt as if he could see right through her clothing. " What brings such a beautiful young vision of loveliness into my humble shop?"
    Fighting the urge to turn and flee away from this horrible man, Nellie told him about her mission and asked him about the three mystical gems.
    The awful man's eyes gleamed greedily as he exclaimed, " Ah yes, the legendary gems of the Pharaoh Anak-Rus! The legend lists a sapphire more blue than the desert sky, a ruby redder than blood, and an emerald more green than the eyes of a cobra!" His gaze burned into Nellie's as he added, " Ah yes, we have much to discuss."

    " Those gems would be truly great treasures to own! I will help you find them. As luck would have it, I believe I know where the Ruby of Sakhara is. However, before I dispense this information, I will require a small . . . fee." His gaze moved slowly over Nellie's body once more, causing bile to rise into her throat in fear of what sort of fee he wanted from her.
    " I require a simple donation of two relics worth at least two hundred simoleons apiece. That is reasonable, yes?" Nellie could not have agreed more as she released the breath she had not realized she had been holding. She had relics fitting the bill at base camp, so she left to retrieve them, and then hurried back.

    " I was able to locate the Ruby while you were gone" the sleazy Relic Merchant drawled upon her return. " Seeing as how the Ruby did not come cheap, if you could bring me one more relic worth at least five hundred simoleons, I would be most grateful! In fact, I may have a few of them right here in my shop, for sale, if you wanted to purchase it!" He laughed heartily at his own feeble attempt at humor, but Nellie was not amused.
    In fact, she was struggling to fight off an attempt to strangle the horrid man. As many dealings as she had in the past with other people, this one was certainly the most unpleasant. Lost momentarily in thought, she did not notice when the man moved in closer to her.

    " Of course" he whispered huskily against her ear, " there are other forms of payment we can discuss . . . if you prefer." His breath felt hot and sticky against her ear and stank of raw onions and stale beer. Struggling to control her gag reflex, she grunted as she squirmed quickly away from him as hand moved down and squeezed her bottom. " One day, I have dreams of having a harem you know!"
    Nellie backed away and glared hotly at him. " Ugh! I don't think so!" she spat furiously. She had anticipated such a move on the horrible man's part, so she had come prepared. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a relic and handed it to him.
    Undaunted, Fahad Madbouli took it from her. " Ah, it is too bad. I was beginning to like the idea of alternative method of payment! Nonetheless, this will do." He sighed, " Here is the Ruby of Sakhara, as promised. I believe the other gems are in France. Myth states that the Sapphire of the Crescent Moon lies in the tomb of Jean Necteaux wife, Isael, who is buried near her husband. I suggest you return to France and speak to Estelle Fouchier."

    Once outside the Relic Merchant's shop, Nellie finally felt as if she could breathe again. The man had infuriated her! She had to draw really hard on her training in discipline in order to keep from using her Martial Arts skills in violence, which went against the training of The Order of the Resolute Fist. Although, she was sure that under extreme circumstances, she could be forgiven. How could a man with a wife and children be so openly disloyal to the woman he had married? Ho Sung's handsome, sweet face popped into her head at that thought, but she quickly pushed it away. It had not been quite the same . . . had it?
    It was then when something caught Nellie's eye, something that swept everything else from her mind completely. She was so intrigued and enthralled by the sight that she moved closer to get a better a look.

    An old woman was sitting on the ground in front of a basket playing a strange instrument. Nellie gasped sharply when a large snake appeared out of it and began to sway around if it were dancing. Nellie had never cared very much for snakes. She usually stayed out of their way and they stayed out of hers, but this completely fascinated Nellie and she could not remove her gaze from the scene before her. As she watched, the snake seemed to move closer toward the old woman on each swaying pass. Suddenly, the woman grabbed the snake by its head and kissed it!
    Finally, the old lady stopped, stood, and smiled at Nellie when she asked, " How in the world do you do that?"
    " Practice" the old woman replied with a chuckle. " It takes a lot of practice! I cannot even count how many times I have been bitten in the past. Also, you must not show fear. The snake knows when you are afraid and that is when he will strike!"

    It was not long before Nellie sat down to give it a try. At first, she could not even get the strange instrument to work correctly; much less charm a snake from its basket. The old woman had explained to Nellie that learning to charm a snake, and reaching the point of being able to kiss it, was one way to cure a mummy's curse. That was when Nellie decided she simply must learn this skill! In her line of work, she came into more than occasional contact with mummies.

    At first, it seemed to Nellie that in order to make any sound at all come from the instrument, she had to nearly pop her eyeballs from their sockets. Nellie was a persistent, obstinate, young woman and refused to give up, although she was afraid the horrible sounds she was making would make the snake go into permanent hiding rather than rise from the basket!


    After a while, the snake finally made an appearance. Nellie was not sure whether it was because she was learning to charm it, or because it was curious as to who was making such a horrible hullabaloo!

    Nellie was appalled at some of the horrible sounds she was getting from the instrument. Even though she was getting a bit better, sour notes were still a frequent thing. The snake did not seem too happy either from the way it spat and hissed, and even lunged toward her as if ready to strike now and then.

    For two solid hours, the young woman concentrated on making the snake dance the way the old woman had. Just as things seemed to be going her way, she would hit yet another sour note that nearly pierced her eardrums and made the snake seem agitated. Suddenly it lunged toward her with its mouth open and ready to bite, but Nellie was quick to back away, so the snake missed its mark.
    Nellie noticed the hour had grown late and her stomach was rumbling, so she gave up her practice session and headed into the food market to buy some dinner.

    While Nellie enjoyed the food she had purchased in the Food Merchant's shop, she noticed how the temperature had dropped once the sun had gone down. After sweltering through the day in the over one hundred degree heat, the slight breeze that now stirred felt cool and soothing against her skin. Once she finished eating, she decided to check her cell phone messages, hoping to have heard from Zhan. While there was no message from him, she had one Gustav wishing her luck in her mission and another one from Gaston Dutiel.
    Gaston's message sounded rather frantic and reminded her that she had not contacted him after having failed to relieve his family of the haunting of a restless spirit. Suddenly, she was assaulted by guilt and shame. The least she could have done was inform him of the problem. Suddenly an idea struck her, so she rose and made her way back into the Food Merchant's shop.

    " Excuse me?" she smiled at the woman behind the counter. " I am looking for a certain kind of fruit and I'm hoping you either have some or can tell me where I can find it." Nellie told the woman what she wanted and waited patiently as she disappeared into the back room to check.
    When the woman reappeared, she was carrying a small basket and grinning broadly. " You are very lucky. I thought we had sold out of these, but I found these in the back corner of our storage room. I hope they will do!"
    Nellie smiled back at the woman and picked one from the basket to inspect more closely. " Thank you very much!" she exclaimed happily.

    " So, you're a Pomegranate" Nellie whispered as she held the fruit in her hand. As she gazed at it, she saw nothing particularly special about the fruit that should make it stand out above any other small, round fruit, although it did smell delicious. She was thrilled to have found the fruit which the spirit haunting Gaston Dutiel's home so desired. Now, she would be able to complete that task upon her return to France.
    Smiling brightly, she turned back to the woman behind the counter and purchased enough of the fruit to satisfy the spirit and to take home with her to plant in her own garden. After that, she left and went back to base camp.

    Having completed her nightly hygiene routine, Nellie prepared to climb into the tent she had been assigned, wishing it were a nice, soft bed in a private room instead. It had been a long, tiring day however, so she thought she would have no trouble sleeping regardless. Once she had settled into sleeping bag, it was a different story. All the thoughts and feelings she had been having upon arriving returned to plague her restless mind and it was quite some time before sleep found her.
    When sleep finally did come, her mind was still active as dreams of being in Ho Sung's arms morphed into nightmares about his betrayal and disappearance. At one point, as she dreamt of Ho Sung holding her in his passionate embrace, his face became that of Gustav Delven as she gazed longingly into his eyes. That was the point in which she awoke with a sharp cry of shock and emotional turmoil. With a sigh, she rose before daylight and went out on an expedition of her own.


    Just before the sun began to peak over the horizen, Nellie was standing outside the Temple of Abu Simbal. Her eyes sparkled in wonderment at the way the lighting gave it a slightly golden hue. Shortly after her first brief trip to Egypt, the managers at the Day Spa had asked her snap a nice picture of the temple to display in their waiting area. Nellie had promised to do it, but told them she was not sure when she would make it back to Egypt. Now was her chance. She knew she needed to head back to France to complete her mission there, but she had thought her task here would take longer to complete than it had, so she had a couple of days to spare. She felt she needed the solitude to sort out her feelings, so she was in no rush to leave.
    She took her camera out of her bag and snapped a few shots from different angles. The Day Spa should be able to pick the one they liked best out of the group. By then, the sun had risen and the day was starting to heat up rather quickly. Nellie decided to have a better look around and approached the entrance.

    When Nellie reached the entrance to the temple, she saw two tables out front with notes on them. To her right, the note said that in order to enter, you must leave a tiny rock as a donation. It just so happened that she had a small space rock with her that she had collected along the way, so she placed it on the table. The note that was on the table to her left, asked for a donation of any relic, so Nellie placed an ancient broken bowl on that one. Suddenly, a panel slid away and unblocked the entrance.
    All of the previous night's angst was forgotten as the thrill of adventuring set in and Nellie approached the door. After only a moment's hesitation, she stepped inside.

    The first thing Nellie noticed upon entering the first chamber was a plaque on the wall to her right, but then a diving pool caught her eye. Deciding to check the diving pool first, she headed toward it. She decided she would come back and see what was written on the plaque after exploring the pool.
    Nellie found a hidden tunnel in the pool, but instead of swimming through, she returned to the surface first to read what was written on the plaque. Unfortuneately, that plan did not work out so well.

    Once she emerged from the pool, she learned that she was now blocked in, with nowhere to go except for back into the diving pool through the secret tunnel. A fire trap had appeared to block her way from returning to the room through which she had entered. Now she felt she may have missed something important, but it could not helped. With a heavy sigh, she turned and dove back into the pool and quickly swam through the tunnel to the other side.

    She emerged, sputtering and gasping for breath. The tunnel had been longer that she had expected and she had barely had enough air in her lungs to make it through. As she dragged herself onto the edge, she saw a pile of rubble that needed to be cleared. Buried beneath it was a star-shaped keystone.

    The keystone went to the only door leading out of the room, so she eagerly put it into place and entered the newly-unlocked chamber. There was a set of stairs leading down, so she descended them cautiously. After having to step on a series of floor panels below, she finally gained access into another room. The room seemed to be a maze of some sort and there were plaques and intervals along the way. Nellie moved toward the first one and read.

    The words, Only one path can be trodden unscathed. Follow the word of Horus to safely pass. For the first step, listen to his words: " While fire burns all that it touches, the color of warmth will lead to safety." , written on the plaque almost immediately made sense to Nellie. She looked down at the floor. One path was blue and one path was red. She remembered learning in grade school that blue is a cool color, while red is a warm one.
    She smiled and began to walk ahead on the red path. Sure enough, firetraps appeared and roared into flaming life along the blue side. Soon, she came to another plaque and stopped to read that one as well.

    " The colors of earth and sky, those who fly can safely pass by" Nellie read the plaque aloud. It was clear to her that she must walk on the blue floor now.

    Sometimes the right path can be the wrong path. " Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Nellie sighed. After closing her eyes and thinking for a moment, she decided to stay with blue because it was on the left and red was on the right. Relief washed over her when she made it through without being scorched.

    The next plaque in line gave another clue: The top of the rainbow contains the safe path. A sudden bout of panic nearly crippled Nellie's mind as she realized she was drawing a complete blank on how the colors of the rainbow were order. Was red on top, or was it blue?
    Finally, she closed her eyes and began to do some deep breathing excerises to relax her nerves. Then she pictured a rainbow forming in her mind. When the rainbow was fully developed, she opened her eyes and chuckled. How could she have forgotten? Nellie walked ahead to the next plaque on the red floor.

    Again, Nellie read the plaque aloud. " The path of tears, while not pleasant, is better than the path of anger." She smiled. That one was easy enough. Everyone knew that red was the color of anger. Therefore, blue must be the color of tears.

    He who deviates from his path will only find destruction. " That settles it then" Nellie said to herself, smiling. " I guess I'm sticking with blue!"
    Relieved she was through the plaque maze, Nellie headed toward a door straight ahead. She entered and then got a surprise just inside the doorway.

    A deep voice filled the room, which seemed to reverberate off the walls and vibrate the floor beneath Nellie's feet. " Only those able to overcome their greed may be freed to take the Eyes of Horus!"
    Who is Horus? Nellie thought, and why would I want to take his eyes? A quick survey of the room revealed no place to go, but Nellie's experienced eye fell upon an interesting spot on the wall, so she moved toward it.

    After a bit of pushing and feeling around, Nellie finally revealed a hidden door. As soon as it swung open, she stepped inside, but then stopped suddenly with a loud gasp. Nellie distinctly heard a voice resounding in the distance from somewhere below. " This treasure is not for the taking! He who disturbs the red priest of Horus will pay with his life!"
    " Alrighty then" Nellie murmured sarcastically as she passed by the tables which held various relics and headed toward the sarcophagus on the far wall.

    Nellie slowly opened the sarcophagus to have a look inside. She found a hidden switch and as soon as she activated it, an angry voice resounded from below. " You have been warned! Now prepare to meet your fate!" Now a touch of fear entered Nellie's heart and her pulse quickened, but she saw nothing in the sarcophagus except a relic from the Dangerous Creatures collection.
    After removing it, she closed the lid and turned to go inspect the relics on the tables she had passed. Suddenly, she heard the creaking of the lid to the sarcophagus opening again and she mentally prepared herself for trouble ahead.

    She could hear its rag-clad feet dragging the floor as it made its way toward her, but she stood very still and waited. She knew there was a good chance he would pass right by her because mummies were not very bright as a general rule. How could you be if your brain had turned to dust? Now the mummy was so close that Nellie could smell the mustiness of which it reeked. It brushed against her arm as it passed by her, but Nellie stood her ground and did not move.
    Suddenly, the mummy turned back and became aggressive. Nellie backed away, but boldly glared at him as he prepared to attack.

    " Oh, you want play, do you, Raggedy Andy?" Nellie sneered at the approaching mummy. After not having much sleep, along with her recent disturbing dreams and musings, she was in no mood to be nice. She was, in fact, almost happy to have the chance to take her frustrations out on someone or some . . . thing. The awful creature groaned and dragged itself toward her while Nellie stood her ground, her eyes flashing with anger.
    Nellie waited until the thing was only inches away and watched it carefully, trying to discern its next move. Just as it was about to lunge for her, she took the initiative and lunged toward it first.

    The stale, musty odor of the ancient mummy nearly gagged her and made her lose concentration, but she held on and her feeling of nausea passed. As she wrestled with the old pile of rags, she never let fear or the worry of losing the fight enter her heart or mind. Nellie had taken on a much stronger mummy than this one in the bowels of the Dragon Cave, so she knew she could prevail over this one. Soon, the fight was over and Nellie stood, rising to her full height.

    " How did you like that, you smelly old thing?" she spat vehemently as she stood above her fallen enemy. " Don't you wish you had stayed in your box today?"
    The mummy moaned, groaned, and whined as it slowly rose to its feet and Nellie watched as it spun in circles and was reduced to a pile of dust on the floor. She brushed off her hands, stepped over what was left of the mummy, and left the room.
    After traveling down several corridors, Nellie came to another plaque on the wall that she stopped to read.

    Going backwards is the key. Be prepared before the final step. When she studied her surroundings, Nellie noticed four cubby holes lining the way ahead. On the back wall in each one was a plaque, with a floor panel on the floor beneath. The plaques were numbered one through four. Assuming going backwards meant from four to one, Nellie activated each floor panel in that order. After the final one, a secret door swung open at the end of the corridor.

    As she passed through, firetraps roared to life behind her. The hour was late and Nellie was nearly exhausted, but she plugged onward, hoping to find a way out, or at least a place to rest. As luck would have it, she was pleasantly surprised upon opening the next door she approached.

    At that moment, the bed was the most beautiful sight Nellie had ever seen. Her body, and her mind, were completely exhausted and drained of energy. She had not realized she had been in the temple so long since she had no way of gauging the daylight while inside the place. A glance at the watch she carried in her pocket told her the hour had grown late. The watch had been her father's and she carried it with her always. A pang of sadness entered her heart as she stuffed it back into her pocket as a vision of her father's kind face flashed in her mind. The exhausted young woman brushed it away, climbed into the large, comfortable bed, and fell quickly into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

    Awaking early, Nellie checked into the rooms down the hallway from where she had slept and found more bedrooms. She was hoping to find a key to unlock the chest in that room, but she found none. She then moved on around the corner and entered another chamber in which she found holes to inspect.

    After inspecting a hole on each side of the chamber, she had to wiggle the lanterns to make something happen. Each lantern triggered the opening of a door. One of those revealed a hidden door near the bedroom where she had slept, and the other opened a door leading from the chamber in which she now stood. Nellie made her way toward that door and then she stopped to read yet another plaque.

    It will be death to anyone who dares to leave with the treasures of Horus. One who comes unprepared must return the treasures to the altars. He who comes prepared will an eye at the place so marked. Nellie's brow furrowed in thought as she read the words etched into the plaque. She was unsure of what they meant, but she moved forward into the chamber. She approached the chests and took the relics inside and turned to leave, but her way was suddenly blocked by flame traps, which were unable to be disarmed or crossed.
    On a hunch, she reached into her bag and retrieved certain items and placed them upon the tables at the altars. When she looked again, the flame traps had been extinguished. Nellie left the chamber and made her way back toward the place she had spent the night.

    Nellie began pushing on the door just beyond the bedroom in which she had slept, hoping it would lead to a way out. She loved adventuring, but she was ready to get out of the Temple of Abu Simbel. She had had enough for now! She released a sigh of relief when the door opened to reveal the room through which she had first entered the temple. One look around to make sure she had not missed anything, and she then she left and headed for the Marketplace.
    Tired of the dried food she had been forced to eat while exploring, she went straight to the food market to purchase something tasty. As she stood in front of menu board, her mind focused on deciding what she wanted, she did not notice someone approach her from behind.

    " Good afternoon" a deep male voice broke into Nellie's contemplation of the menu. " You are Miss Nellie Blye, world famous adventurer, are you not?"
    His sudden appearance had startled her, so she gasped sharply and then laughed. " Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call myself 'world famous'!" Jiang Lu was still at it, she thought. Not only was her name getting around in China, it was obviously crossing oceans as well. Thinking of China, it made her wonder how this man could have sneaked up on her so easily. With her Martial Arts training, came the skill of knowing when someone was approaching you from behind. Maybe it was time to spend a bit more time in mediation. She smiled and turned face him. " Is there something I can do for you?"

    " My, but you even more beautiful than your picture in the newspaper" he flirted and Nellie felt her cheeks grow hot. She thought he was rather handsome as well, but she did not tell him so. She remained silent and waited for him to continue. " It is most wonderful to meet you" he continued, still smiling. " If you have time, I would most appreciate it if you could take care of a small errand for me. I accidentally left some papers in a nearby tomb. They are in the Tomb of Discovery. If you could find my papers and bring them back to me, you will be well-compensated. Then, if you like, I will give you some more exciting tasks!"
    The man was so soft-spoken and kind that Nellie took an immediate liking to him. " I would be happy to do it" she smiled. " But, I have just come back from a long exploration, so I need a bit of time to do a couple of other things first. I hope you don't mind." He told her that would be fine and handed her a card with his name and address, telling her she could find him at home when her task was complete.

    Nellie had spent the next few hours milling around the Marketplace, purposely avoiding the Relic Merchant's shop and the nasty man who worked there. The Tomb of Discovery was right behind the base camp, so she planned on searching for the desired papers before turning in for the evening. She had told the man she would bring is papers to him the next morning if she was successful in finding them.
    After a quick snack of bread and jam, she headed to the Tomb of Discovery, thinking she knew exactly where the papers may be. There was one chest she had left unopened on her previous visit there, so she made her way to it.

    The chest was not very deep into the tomb, so she got to it quickly, pleased that her hunch had been correct. She quickly snatched the papers from the chest and went back to base camp. Thinking about the nice bed she had spend the previous night in, she sighed wistfully as she climbed into her tent and made herself as comfortable as possible in such a primitive setup. The day had been long and full, so sleep came quickly.
    Early the next morning, Nellie was awake and ready to begin a new day. After a quick breakfast and hot shower, she dressed and made her way toward her destination. Looking at the card the man had given her, she checked the address. Then she read his name out loud, hoping she was pronouncing it correctly, " Youssef Nagi." She smiled. It was an interesting name which, she felt, may belong to an interesting man.

    " The tomb did not kill you" Youssef laughed, his eyes twinkling with amusement, " Most excellent!"
    Nellie laughed, " Hardly. Trust me. I have explored far more dangerous tombs than that!"
    " This I know" Youssef smiled. " Your reputation precedes you, Nellie. May I call you, Nellie?"
    Nellie smiled warmly at him. The man had a way of putting her at ease. " That is my name."
    Youssef looked through the papers Nellie had handed him for a moment and then set them aside.

    " It will take me some time to analyze these papers. Until then, MorcuCorp has some other tasks for you, if you are interested" he said with a smile.
    Nellie smiled back. The man's friendly, outgoing nature seemed to be contagious. " Oh, I am very much interested" she replied eagerly, " but I am afraid I am out of time on this visit." She sighed sadly, surprised to discover that now, for some reason, she was sorry to leave Egypt so soon. " I am scheduled for a flight to France this afternoon.
    " Oh" he replied with a hint of disappointment, " I am sorry to hear that, but it is alright. The job is not urgent, so I am sure it will keep for awhile. It will give you an excuse for a return trip to Al Simhara, yes?" Nellie's breath seemed to catch in her throat as he moved a step closer to her.

    Youssef Nagi gazed into Nellie's eyes long enough to make her begin to feel self-conscious. Just when she thought she could not bear it any longer, a huge grin spread over his face. " You are an angler, yes?" At Nellie's nod, he added with a laugh, " It takes one to know one! That is an old American expression, is it not?"
    Nellie laughed, at ease once more. " Well, we do say that in America, although I'm not quite certain of its origins. And yes, fishing is my passion!" Nellie wondered how he could have known. Surely he had not gleaned that information by gazing into her eyes, unless he was some sort of mind reader. Now that notion made Nellie more than a tad uncomfortable.
    " Excellent! You have a bit of time before your flight leaves, yes?" Nellie nodded and he continued, " I will show you the most beautiful fishing spot in all of Al Simhara!" Before Nellie could protest, he had ushered her out the door and they were on their way.

    Youssef had been truthful when he had said it was a beautiful fishing spot. Nellie had never seen one more beautiful, in fact. It was surprising to her how such a wonderfully green place could be found situated in the midst of the vast desert environment which was Al Simhara. For the first time in quite awhile, Nellie felt truly relaxed and happy. She listened intently as Youssef Nagi told her a bit about himself, and she found his story quite intriguing.
    At age twenty-three, he had become co-CEO of MorcuCorp, alongside his father, who was the head CEO of the company. Youssef had demonstrated a head for business at a very early age, and now at age twenty-eight, he was set to take over the reins at MorcuCorp upon his father's retirement. Since he was so high up in the company, he was able to come and go as he pleased and that was how he was able to take a few hours off to go fishing with Nellie. As well as being an avid fisherman, Youssef also enjoyed great works of art and spent lots of time in museums to admire it, as well as at auctions collecting it.

    " Oh my God, what is this?" Nellie screeched, horrified, as she pulled something out of the water the likes of which she had never seen. Immediately, she let go of it and watched as it dangled, squirming helplessly on the end of her line.
    Instantly, Youssef was at her side. " It is a crocodile" he laughed as he grabbed a hold of the creature and brought it closer so that Nellie could have a look. " Did I forget to mention that there was a good possibility of catching one here?" He smiled reassuringly at her as he carefully removed it from the hook and held it up. " It is of fairly generous size as well!" Nellie paid close attention as she showed her how to hold it without being bitten. Although still shaken and somewhat nervous, she took it from him when he held it out to her.

    Nellie had never seen a creature with so many teeth! As she gingerly held it and gazed in awe at the interesting creature, she felt quite foolish. Of course she knew what a crocodile was, but she had never seen one up close and personal. It had been quite a shock to actually catch one on the end of her fishing line.
    Youssef moved closer to her and smiled, " Crocodiles such as this are a fairly common catch here. They are quite delicious as well. Someday, I will make my special recipe for you and you will see." Youssef had been interested in cooking as long as he could remember. He told Nellie how he used to sit in the kitchen and watch his mother cook when he was a boy. When he had been old enough, he loved to help out in the kitchen, despite the fact he would be teased by his father and his friends for doing woman's work. In Egypt, household chores were traditionally left up to the females, so it seemed odd to other men that Youssef should take an interest in the culinary arts. Nellie was impressed that he would dare go against the grain of his culture to pursue something he enjoyed.

    " Thank you so much, Youssef!" Nellie cried as she impulsively threw her arms around his neck when it was time go. She could not remember the last time she had spent such a relaxing few hours. It had been wonderful to spend some time indulging her passion for fishing in the company of someone else who felt the same. It had also been nice to be in the company of someone who was as easy going and openly friendly as Youssef Nagi. She had even enjoyed the light-hearted, flirty comments he had been tossing her way on occasion. " I have had a wonderful time" she said softly.
    Youssef eagerly accepted the young woman's embrace and pulled her in closer, enjoying the feel of her heartbeat as it throbbed against his chest. " It was my pleasure" he murmured softly into her hair. Suddenly, Nellie remembered herself and broke their embrace, as embarrassment brought a hot blush to her cheeks.

    " I . . . I'm sorry" she said in a voice strained with emotion. " I . . . I seemed to have forgotten myself. It's just that I have had such a great time today, the best one in awhile, actually, and I am very grateful to you for it." Her voice trailed away as her embarrassment deepened. Youssef, in his unique way, managed to quickly put her at ease once again.
    " No worries" he laughed, his eyes twinkling with amusement. " I have had a most wonderful time as well." He smiled and took her hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. " Come" he smiled, " I will drive you to the airport."
    Soon, Nellie was, once again, seated on a plane gazing out the window as the landscape of Egypt disappeared from view. It felt wonderful to have made such an amazing new acquaintance. Although she was heading toward France, she was already looking forward to her next trip to Egypt.