The Staff of Moses – Chapter 20

Into the Garden

The next morning, Oliver and Diana crawled out of the Range Rover feeling stiff from a night spent sleeping in the car, not to mention the tumble Diana had taken running away from the skeleton.

The sun was just rising over the eastern rim of the canyon as Oliver stretched his sore muscles and examined the layout of Sephor’s estate through a pair of binoculars. After several minutes he lowered the binoculars and pulled a printed map of the exterior of the estate, drawn by the archeological team that had briefly excavated the site, from an exterior flap of his backpack, which rested on the hood of the Range Rover.

The team had consisted of both British and American students participating in a work study program with an Egyptologist named Herbert Yancy. Dr. Yancy was an experienced excavator, known for his meticulous field work, who had grown weary of vying for a place digging in the more famous areas of Egypt, which he considered to be picked over and trampled anyway. Instead, he had elected to investigate this previously unexplored site, which had been recently spotted on commercial satellite imagery. The team spent a mere three weeks at the estate before the disappearance of Dr. Yancy and a female student brought the expedition to a sudden end.

Egyptian authorities had conducted a cursory investigation, during which one team member made vague mention of a curse, but said no more when pressed for details. All of them unanimously swore that their professor and the missing girl had fallen in love and run off together in the middle of the night. The authorities ruled that there was no evidence of foul play and sent the students home.

Before he disappeared, Dr. Yancy and his students had focused on mapping the exterior of the site, cataloging the piles of bones and weaponry that littered the courtyard, and examining the guards’ quarters in the gatehouse. They produced the map that Oliver now held, as well as a moderate collection of notes which were remarkable only for their description of how untouched the site appeared to be.

The contents of the notes and map got Oliver thinking. He and Diana had been within the walls of the estate for under an hour before they were attacked by a skeletal guardian. How had the previous team managed to spend nearly three weeks here without being attacked? The only logical explanation Oliver could come up with was based on Dr. Yancy’s slow and cautious methods. His team had not even entered the walls of the estate until they had spent two days making measurements of the perimeter wall and photographing the courtyard from a distance. Even after entering the estate, Dr. Yancy had forbidden his students to cross the courtyard until it had been thoroughly swept for artifacts laying under the sands. Once they discovered the piles of bones and weapons, which Oliver now believed to be remnants of skeleton guards which had been destroyed in the past, progress had slowed tremendously as each pile was photographed, described, and cautiously transferred into storage.