Matchup, p.32
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       MatchUp, p.32
 

           Lee Child

  or Prada or some Italian brand. She opened the folder and her manner changed.

  She looked defensive.

  “I’ve been in your seat many times. Enough to know no one loves people looking over your shoulder,” he said.

  “You’ll see we are pretty thorough. Not quite the third-world police investigators you expect.”

  Yes, definitely defensive.

  She snapped the file shut and slid it near Hauck on the desk. “This is all we know. Ms. Winters was an intern at the Alexandria National Museum. I understand she was receiving her master’s in archaeology at Columbia University.”

  “That’s about as much as I know too.”

  He paged through the file. Photos. Evidence forms. Interview transcripts. Depositions. Much like they had in the States. Most of the documents were in English. He assumed this had been done for the benefit of Stephanie Winters’s family.

  Clipped to the front of the file was Stephanie Winters’s ID photo from the museum. She wasn’t beautiful, but she was attractive. Straight blond hair. Wide eyes. A strong and confident smile. She looked eager and ready to go.

  And smart.

  Hauck’s managing partner, Tom Foley, had told him that Stephanie was top of her class. A young woman who’d had every reason to be pleased with her life.

  Then she’d vanished.

  The Winters family had resources and contacts. They’d pulled every string they had with the Egyptian government and the U.S. State Department.

  And came up empty.

  “She went missing when?” he asked.

  “Two months ago.” Nabila didn’t have to look at the file to know. “The parents are divorced, as you know, but they’ve both been here several times. I understand their frustration. She was last seen in an Internet café on Mustafa Kamel Street. I’m told she had some interest in a young man who works there. A Croat. She was, by all accounts, an excellent student and a committed worker. According to Doctor Razi at the museum, they were doing work in satellite cartography. Do you know what that is?”

  “You’re talking to someone who barely got through eighth-grade earth science,” he said with a smile.

  “Electromagnetic cartography can map out formations of ruins that are still underground. All Egypt is built on layers and layers of such ruins. Greek. Hellenistic. Roman. Ottoman. Dig anywhere, we say here, you will find something.”

  “You might say we cops believe that sounds true for anywhere,” he said.

  “The world over. It is true. But here we are sitting atop buried civilizations. A graveyard of history. Watch your step, you may trip over Cleopatra’s chariot wheel. I am kidding, of course. Anyway, we checked, regarding the girl. We don’t have street cameras here, the way you have in the United States and London. But we interviewed everyone. Her roommates, her colleagues. We went through her apartment and office. We checked for hairs and DNA. We exhausted all our leads. Nothing.”

  “No chance she just ran off with someone?”

  He had to ask, though it didn’t seem likely.

  “Without word? At work, Stephanie never missed a day. She and her parents would speak several times a week. And she was in constant contact with her brother and her sister on her WhatsApp account. They were all anxious, as you might imagine, a young American woman here in Egypt. Attractive. And Jewish, too, I was told.”

  “I was going to mention that,” he said. “I don’t know what the climate for that kind of hatred is, here. I know in Cairo—”

  “In Cairo the temperature is even higher, as we say. For what is going on in the world. In the second and third century, Alexandria had the largest Jewish population in the world.” She shrugged. “Even now, we have a reputation as a tolerant, multicultural city. There is still a small Jewish population here. But in today’s world, violence can happen anywhere.”

  He had seen the aftermath of hatred more times than he cared to remember. “You’re right. May I take a good look at this file in a room here?”

  “You can keep it. I’ve made copies for both of you.” Nabila glanced at the clock on the wall. “I already e-mailed one to your colleague, who is due to arrive soon.”

  “I’ve never met him,” he admitted. “I was only asked to make sure things went smoothly for this guy. My boss told me he could be pretty unconventional. I assume he’s a forensic guy?”

  “Not a guy,” the inspector said with surprise. “A woman. Were you not briefed?”

  “Obviously not. It all happened pretty quickly. I was just asked to get down here as fast as I could, and get up to speed when I landed in Alexandria.”

  “Then I think you are in for a surprise,” the inspector said. She smiled openly. “This young lady was sent by the Winters family, not by the police. I think you’ll find she has an interesting specialty.”

  “And what is that?”

  Nabila Honsi rose and slipped her purse over her shoulder.

  “Apparently, she can speak to the dead.”

  THE LUFTHANSA FLIGHT FROM FRANKFURT to Alexandria pulled up to the gate at Borg El Arab International Airport an hour late. Hauck was used to delays, used to waiting, but the drive from Alexandria out to the airport had been longer than he expected and he was ready for the plane to taxi up.

  He watched men in light-colored business suits and open shirts, carrying val pacs and briefcases, who looked like they might well be in commercial fields like oil, textiles, or import/export, exit from the first-class compartment.

  They were almost all native Egyptians.

  Trailing behind them were two young Americans, perhaps in their twenties. The pale woman was wearing yoga pants and a denim jacket over her tank top. Her short dark hair stood up in spikes, though he wondered if that was deliberate or a result of hours on the plane. The man was in battered jeans and a cut-off UNC sweatshirt, and he wheeled a cheap carry-on suitcase behind him.

  He looked past them, waiting for his colleague to emerge.

  Every woman he’d met who claimed to deal with the occult had either been overly made up and glitzy, or of the gauze skirt and sandals type.

  Nearly always middle-aged.

  The two young Americans stepped up to Nabila Honsi, who held a sign reading HARPER CONNELLY.

  “I’m Harper,” the woman said. She looked first at Nabila, next at Hauck, as if she were recording them mentally.

  “See, Harper, I told you they’d be meeting us,” the man said. He had dark hair, too, and his face was scarred with the evidence of long-ago acne.

  They grew up poor, Hauck thought.

  “I thought you’d be at baggage claim,” the young woman said.

  “You’ve been sent by the Winterses?” Hauck said, unable to conceal his surprise.

  It didn’t seem to bother her. “Mrs. Winter. This is Tolliver Lang. My brother. And manager.”

  “Your manager?” Hauck said, meeting Nabila’s surprised gaze.

  They’d both noticed the different last names.

  Was this woman married? He’d noticed no rings.

  Nabila jumped into the conversational gap. “I’m Inspector Honsi of the Alexandria police. I worked on Stephanie Winters’s case. And this is Ty Hauck. He’s from the Talon Company in the States. The Winters family asked Mr. Hauck to join us while you are here.”

  “Ms. Winters’s father asked me to come along,” Hauck added. “I’ve just flown in myself earlier today, from Tel Aviv. You came in from the States?”

  “The longest flight we’ve ever been on,” Tolliver said, stretching. His southern accent seemed more marked than his sister’s. “A whole lot longer than from Los Angeles to Atlanta. That was our previous record.”

  “You’re a lawyer?” Harper asked Hauck.

  “Ex-policeman. But I have no official capacity in Egypt. I’m only here to make sure it’s easy for you to do your job.”

  “We don’t need help,” she said evenly. “We’re quite good at what we do.”

  “I’m sure you are. I meant help with the local bureaucr
acy,” he explained.

  He gave a slight wink to Nabila. This young woman was beyond cocky.

  “I know it’s been a long trip,” Nabila said. “I’ll take you to the hotel. We put you at the Four Seasons at the Winterses’ request. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it comfortable. You’re staying there as well, Ty?”

  “I am.”

  “Good. I’m sure you’ll all want to shower and relax a few hours.”

  “Definitely a shower,” Harper said, after a glance at her brother. “But we slept on the plane. I’d like to get started.” She pulled her knapsack over her shoulder as if to say, Let’s go.

  Nabila looked at her with surprise. “Right away?”

  They started to walk to the exit.

  “Yes, we have to be in Charlotte on Friday,” Tolliver said, falling in beside his sister.

  Hauck said, “You have another case there?”

  Harper nodded. “It’s not an urgent one, like this. It’s pretty certain the man was killed in an accident somewhere along his route home. He’s missing, and so is his car. Plus he’d been drinking. But his family wants the body.”

  She spoke quite calmly, and he began to wonder what it would take to rattle her.

  “You can converse with the dead?” he asked, after they climbed into a white, unmarked Ford sedan.

  Tolliver and Harper sat in back. Hauck in front next to Nabila, who drove.

  “Not converse,” Harper said, gazing out the window at the Egyptian landscape. “Their bones call to me, so I can locate them. Then I see how they died.”

  “And what is it like?”

  “What’s what like?”

  “How they communicate with you,” he asked.

  “They want to be found. I feel the hum. Kind of like the wind blowing through a wind harp, if you know what I mean. It can be overwhelming.” She looked bleak, and much older, for a long moment. “This place is distracting. There are so many dead crowded here. Layers and layers and layers.” She fell silent and closed her eyes. After a moment, she began to move in tiny ways, her head tilting, hand twitching.

  Creepy as hell.

  He didn’t know if she was a fraud or, just remotely possible, the real thing. But she was good at selling herself. He glanced over at Nabila, but she was concentrating on the road, keeping her face neutral.

  “Harper’s solved many important cases,” Tolliver said matter-of-factly. “Just last week we were in Knoxville, Tennessee, working with the police there.”

  “You found a body?”

  “We didn’t find one there. It was a bad case. A kid. But we had a strong case in Atlanta before that. Harper found a woman who’d been missing for ten years.”

  “And how did your sister get this power?” he asked, unable to keep the hint of skepticism from his voice.

  Harper’s eyes flew open.

  They looked a fainter shade of gray than they had earlier.

  “Lightning,” she said.

  “Really?” He couldn’t hide the incredulity in his voice.

  “I was struck by lightning as a teenager. I lived. Most people don’t. Tolliver started my heart again.” She took her brother’s hand. “Since then I’ve had this power. It was hard to deal with.” She smiled, but it wasn’t a happy smile. “I can see you don’t believe me, Mr. Hauck. Many of the police are skeptical. At least, at first.”

  “I’m no longer a policeman,” he said. “But I’ll be interested to see you at work.”

  Which was the truth.

  “Don’t be so Western, Ty,” Nabila chided him.

  He figured she was trying to lighten the atmosphere.

  “In Alexandria, we are all in a partnership with the dead. As I said, our city is built on prior civilizations. The dead are alive to us here. In America, when you dig, you strike oil or water. Here, we find two-thousand-year-old ruins. Even the person who founded this city, Alexander the Great—the legend is buried here somewhere. Though no one knows where.”

  “I thought he died in Asia? Babylon?” he said. “And no one knows for sure what killed him, right?”

  “Alexander died in Babylon. Maybe he was murdered, poisoned. Maybe he had blood poisoning. Or an illness. His bones were on the way to Macedon when they were hijacked. Perhaps the hijacker was his leading general, Ptolemy, who stayed and founded the five-hundred-year Greek dynasty here. Of all the places Alexander conquered, he loved Alexandria the best. He wasn’t the last Greek to rule Egypt. You know of Cleopatra? She was Greek. The last of the Greeks, as it turned out.”

  “Maybe Ms. Connelly will find Alexander’s bones while she’s here.”

  He turned back to her with a smile.

  “Maybe I will,” Harper said, staring at an open truck with an ox in the cargo bay. “If there are any bones left.”

  “Do we get to see any pyramids?” Tolliver asked, eyes wide, scanning out the window. But it was only a highway, with the same rushing traffic you would find anywhere in the world, the scenery relentlessly modern.

  “No, there are no pyramids here. Those are farther west. Along the Nile. Out of Cairo.” Nabila sounded as though she’d said the same thing many times, and it never made her happy.

  He could understand her viewpoint.

  Pyramids equaled tourist dollars.

  Tolliver appeared disappointed and glanced at his sister, as if that was the reason they had taken this gig.

  She patted his shoulder.

  They were sure a bit touchy for brother and sister.

  THE FOUR SEASONS ALEXANDRIA WAS as striking as any four Seasons, and it was situated right on the harbor. Considering that Harper and Tolliver dressed inexpensively and in general gave such an air of having been brought up rough, Hauck expected the two to be more impressed with the gleaming lobby.

  But if they were, they covered it up well.

  An hour later the four met again in front of the concierge desk. Hauck could tell that Harper had had a shower. Her hair looked much calmer, her face fresher. Even Tolliver looked more relaxed. This time, Nabila drove them through the souk sector of the city, down a crowded market street. The brother and sister got a taste of the foreign there with the limbs of livestock hanging from hooks in the open air, stalls of fruits, melons, and dates.

  “We have also a specialized market area called the Attarine, where you can find many antiques,” Nabila told the newcomers.

  The two looked at her blankly, so she got to business.

  “We are heading to three places. The Coolnet café, the last place Ms. Winters was seen. Then her apartment. After that, I’ll take you to the museum. I’ve arranged a time to speak with Professor Razi, Ms. Winters’s superior.”

  “Her bones are not going to be in her apartment, or the Internet café, or the museum,” Tolliver said.

  “We’re also conducting a conventional investigation,” Hauck said, beginning to be pissed off by the two Americans’ indifference to the rest of the world, including anyone else’s experience.

  He addressed his next remarks exclusively to Nabila.

  “So what do we know about her? Did she like to party? What about any relationships with men? Ex-boyfriends? Anyone who might have a motive for harming her. Was she active in local affairs? Did she go to the synagogue, have contacts there?”

  “By all accounts she was like any of the students who come here,” Nabila said. “Alexandria is a place that sets your spirits free. She went to some parties. Still, Dr. Omar Razi, her superior at the museum, says she was a serious girl and a dedicated worker. Her primary focus was the discovery of ruins of past civilizations.”

  The car wound down a narrow street.

  “In fact, we are entering the old Roman part of the city. There is not much left from that era. What the Ottomans or earthquakes
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