TJ used her own penlight to direct his larger beam to the sandy ground near a rough, oil-stained workbench built into one of the corners. There, next to two rusted five-gallon cans of congealed roofing tar, one of them on its side, a stained, dun-colored, unevenly globular object gleamed dully in the artificial light.

Jerry was the first to speak. “A skull. I guess there isn’t much doubt about its being human.”

“There’s more than the skull,” TJ said. She bounced her thin line of light to other objects scattered in an eight- or nine-foot radius over the junk-littered ground: a snarled, grisly clump consisting of a scapula and humerus held together by a few tattered shreds of ligament, the entire mess caught up in a twisted, filthy galabiya; a thigh bone with the ends gnawed away; a sacrum and an innominate bone, also held together by a few threads of fiber. A few feet from the skull was what appeared to be a turban, collapsed and filthy. Near the sacrum was a cracked, curled sandal.

“An Arab,” Jerry said. “The jackals must have been at him. There’s still some dried flesh left, but not much.”

Arlo shivered. “I wonder how long he’s… it’s been here.”‘

“Who knows?” Jerry said. He leaned over, peering at the femur, hands on his knees. “Ten years, twenty years…”

“Impossible,” Haddon said curtly. “This area was in regular use until—when was it?”

“Until the big rains five years ago, so they’ve been here less than that,” TJ said. “Five years at most. And I doubt if the jackals can get into the compound. Dogs, more likely, or those monster rats.”

Arlo’s face, pasty at the best of times, was distinctly greenish in the light from the flashlights. He looked away as Haddon shone his light directly onto the skull.

“Who is it?” the director demanded, sounding thoroughly aggrieved. “How did he get in? What the devil was he doing in here?”

No one answered. “Nobody’d better touch anything,” Jerry said.

Haddon’s lips turned down. “Perish the thought.”

“And I think we’d better notify the police.”

“The police?” Haddon turned on him. “Good God, Jerry, have you ever dealt with the Egyptian police? Why would we want to drag them into this? This—this person has been dead for years and no one’s missed him yet, have they? I think it’s clear enough what happened. The poor beggar got in here somehow, hoping to find something worth stealing in the collection and had the misfortune to die in flagrante delicto. Claimed by the Grim Reaper in the very act of plunder.”

His light darted erratically through the jumble of discarded objects. “Ha, see that piece right there? He must have come in here—”

“Why here!” TJ said. She waved her own smaller beam over the mounds of debris. “What would he want in here?”

“Now how would I possibly know that? Who knows what was in the heart of a dead man? Perhaps he heard someone coming and ran in here to hide. Perhaps he was hiding until nightfall, when he could make his, er, getaway more easily. Whatever it was, he simply had the bad luck to die in the interim.”

“Of what?” TJ persisted. “Old age? Gallstones? Guilt?”

“Whatever the reason,” Haddon said sweetly, “we can rest secure in the knowledge that the unfortunate gentleman is in the arms of Osiris and beyond caring what we make of him. I hardly see the need to stir things up at this late date, and particularly not now, with the Gustafsons here, busily putting their noses into every corner, not to mention that accursed camera crew. And don’t forget the anticipated arrival of the man known to one and all as the Skeleton Detective tomorrow evening. God in heaven! No, it seems to me it would save a great deal of commotion all around if we simply disposed of his remains without bothering anybody.”

“You’re kidding!” TJ exclaimed.

“With dignity, of course,” Haddon added.

“We could bury him right in the compound,” Arlo volunteered, earning a surprised glance from Haddon. It was not common for Arlo to address the director without having been spoken to first. “In the northeast corner, where Lambert used to bury his garbage. Nobody uses it anymore.”

“Do I understand you to be volunteering for the assignment?” Haddon asked.

“I—I only meant that I agree with you.”

“I can’t begin to tell you,” said Haddon, “what a source of comfort that is to me.”

Jerry, who had been going quietly through his pipe-lighting ritual, exhaled a lungful of fragrant smoke and shook out the match. “Dr. Haddon, we’ve got a corpse right in our backyard. We don’t know who he was, we don’t know how he died, and we don’t know what he was doing here. The police have to be called. There’s no two ways about it.”

Haddon wavered. Despite the coolness he dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief. “I take your point, Jerry,” he said with surprising mildness, “but I hardly see any hurry—”

“And don’t forget, Ragheb knows all about it.”

“And if Ragheb knows, everybody knows,” TJ said.

Haddon opened his mouth to reply, closed it again, and arrived at a decision he didn’t like. “Yes, all right, you’re probably right,” he said, wearily passing a hand over his eyes. The Scotches had finally caught up with him. “We’ll call them from the house.” He made a frustrated little gesture with the flashlight, pointing the way for their return. They went back the way they’d come, with Haddon in the lead and Arlo bringing up the rear.

“But what a time for this to happen!” Haddon muttered bitterly as they entered the main building.

“All the more reason to take care of it right now,” Jerry said sensibly. “Maybe they can wrap the whole thing up by tomorrow. By the time Oliver gets here it’ll be forgotten.” He found the proper page in the tiny local telephone directory, picked up the telephone, and handed them both to Haddon.

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