to hands-on experience in the latter was three weeks in Egypt, during which he’d helped measure and analyze a skeletal collection from the Twelfth Dynasty. He’d spent almost the whole of it in the dingy basement of the Cairo Museum, escaping only the final week for a whirlwind tour by Volkswagen bus into Upper Egypt, hoping to make it to Luxor, but getting only as far south as Abydos. He’d stopped at all the de rigueur monuments—the pyramids, Memphis, Saqqara, Beni Hassan—sometimes three in a day, and by the time he’d staggered out of the last one, they’d all started to look alike to him. Now, six years later, they were little more than a blur.

Other than that, the only thing he’d done in Egyptology was to teach a couple of classes in it while the regular professor was on sabbatical, but as he didn’t have to tell them, that hardly made him an expert, and besides, it had been years ago. Getting up in front of a camera and talking about Egyptology would make him feel like a fraud, he said, and an interloper besides. Why not turn to a recognized expert in the field?

“I’ll tell you why,” Bruno said, “first, because there aren’t as many recognized experts as you think, and second, we’re not doing a movie for professional anthropologists, we’re doing it for businessmen who might want to give a few bucks, and for high school students who might want to learn a few things, so we don’t need any fancy scientific gobbledygook. What we need is someone personable, someone who can talk in front of a camera in understandable language.”

“Yes, but—”

“Look, it also doesn’t hurt that you happen to be Gideon Oliver, the Skeleton Detective. That’ll catch people’s attention. How many Egyptologists are celebrities?”

A reference to the nickname that had clung to him like a barnacle since his first publicized forensic case was not the best way to win Gideon over. He scowled down at his plate. “I’m not—”

“I don’t think you should reject this too hastily,” Rupert interjected.

“For what it’s worth,” Bea said, “it was Abe Goldstein’s idea.”

Gideon looked up sharply from the chunks of shish kebab he’d been pushing around with his fork. “What was Abe’s idea?”

“That you do some of the narration. He was still chairman of the board then, and as soon as the subject came up, he said you’d be perfect for it. Right, hon?”

“Absolutely right,” Bruno agreed.

For the first time, Gideon’s resistance weakened. Abraham Irving Goldstein, then already near retirement, had been his professor in graduate school, his mentor, his father-figure (or grandfather-figure), and finally his friend. His death from a kidney infection four months before, at the age of eighty-one, had left a space in Gideon’s life, and Julie’s too, that no one else would ever fill.

And narrating a film was exactly the sort of thing Abe would have come up with for him; something to get his nose out of the dusty alleys of Pleistocene hominid taxonomy. Abe had never stopped nagging Gideon—gently, to be sure— about spending too much time in the library stacks and skeletal labs, and too little among people who still had some flesh on their bones.

“Abe really wanted me to do it?” he said softly.

At this sign of wavering, they laid it on: The project would take only two weeks. His work would be undemanding. Nobody was expecting prepared presentations, they simply wanted him to respond to the interviewer’s questions in a relaxed, conversational manner; after-the-fact editing would smooth everything out. It was doubtful that he’d be needed for more than an hour or two a day, so there would be plenty of time for sightseeing and relaxation.

Besides that, another good, old friend of Gideon’s was going to be involved too. Since Phil Boyajian would be in Egypt researching one of his travel books anyway, they had talked him into coming along to handle the logistics, a guarantee of smooth sailing and good company.

“Well—” Gideon said.

And, let’s see, had they forgotten to mention that a leisurely week-long cruise up the Nile would be part of it, so that scenes could be shot at el-Amarna, Dendera, and other wonders of ancient Egypt? Phil had already lined up one of the posh Nile riverboats for their exclusive use.

Gideon laughed. “Are you sure we’re talking about the same Phil Boyajian? Editor of Egypt on the Cheap? I know this guy. He doesn’t exactly believe in posh.”

“Listen,” Bea said, “when I go to Egypt I go posh, and anybody who goes with me just better get used to it.”

“Well—” said Gideon.

And, oh yes, Bea added, there was more than enough room for two on the cruise ship, and at Horizon House as well. They would be delighted if Julie could come too, assuming she could get away.

Would that, she asked disingenuously, be something they might possibly enjoy?

Naturally enough, that sealed it. Julie and Gideon didn’t need even to glance at each other to consider whether two winter weeks on and around the Nile would be something they might possibly enjoy. It beat his going alone, that was for sure. He raised a few pallid objections for form’s sake— his class schedule would have to be adjusted, for one thing— but Rupert waved them airily aside; no problem at all, these things could be taken care of, leave it to him, not to worry.

When Julie said that she didn’t think that changing her vacation schedule would create any difficulties either, the matter was settled, and a few minutes later they were toasting the coming expedition with glasses of Pinot Gris.

“Here’s to a great documentary,” Julie said.

“Here’s to a new Grenz X-ray machine for Anthropology,” said Rupert.

Bruno laughed. “Here’s to a couple of weeks of fun in the sun, let’s not forget that part of it.”

“Amen to that,” Bea said. “Here’s to all of us sitting together at another table in a few months, sipping wine, and watching the sun set over the Nile.”

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