Five days later, Oliver arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, fifteen kilometers north-east of Paris, France. While his ultimate destination was an expensive hotel in the center of Cairo, paid for with his advance from the Senator, Oliver needed to make a brief stopover in France first.
Oliver had an insatiable appetite for adventure and an unshakable belief that he was right in his personal quest, but he knew that he had a definite weak spot in his understanding of ancient Egyptian languages and writing systems. He could read nearly a dozen ancient languages of Europe, South America, and Asia fluently, and could at least stagger his way through taxi instructions and hotel conversations in most major cities across the globe, but his studies had never taken him in the direction of learning to read the dead languages of ancient Egypt. He had, in fact, intentionally avoided studying Egypt any more than was necessary on the theory that the entire region had been picked clean by grave robbers and amateur archaeologists in the first half of the twentieth century and was therefore unlikely to hide any fragments of the mechanism he had dedicated himself to finding.
That was why he had taken this detour to the City of Light. His cousin Amber was not the only person fully versed in his theories who still believed that Oliver wasn’t completely insane. There was also a certain spunky art historian named Diana Jordan.
Diana and Oliver had dated for a few months during his graduate studies, but their relationship imploded after Oliver took off to South America with Amber and didn’t return for two months. She also believed that arcane truths lay hidden behind the myths of the ancient world, though she was more diplomatic than Oliver in how she expressed her theories, so they had kept up a lively correspondence over the years.
Unlike Oliver, Diana had been willing to keep her more exotic theories to herself and focus her official research on comparatively mundane aspects of ancient art, albeit with a distinctly punk twist. Her graduate thesis had been on the relationship between ancient depictions of gods and heroes and the modern view of them in underground pop art. She had graduated and taken a string of research and instillation development positions at museums across the country until a year ago, when she had secured a two-year grant to study the Egyptian artifacts stored at the Louvre in Paris.
The plane landed at Charles de Gaulle airport early in the morning and Oliver made his way through French immigration without incident. He had brought nothing but a shoulder bag with a change of clothes and a few essentials, so there was no need for him to wait for baggage to unload from the plane. He skipped the taxi line and went directly to the train terminal, where he boarded the RER train to Paris.
The train carried him as far as Gare du Nord, where Oliver purchased a stack of metro slips from a vending machine and hopped line five to Gare de l’Est. There he switched to line seven and joined the press of commuters traveling into central Paris. Oliver had visited Paris twice before and come to love the speed and efficiency of the city’s metro system. He especially loved the conjunctions between the modern metro stations, with their gleaming steel and glass, and the networks of old metro tunnels, both terrifying and beautiful in their profusion of shattered tiles and walls that dripped with seepage from the river above. He left the final train and made his way to the surface at the Palais Royal station, which was built under a wide plaza directly across the street from the north wing of the Louvre.