8. Starbucks and Spies

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, TX June 20th, 2004

Another night, another red-eye flight.

Diane stifled a yawn and tried to get more comfortable in her seat—TJ had won the toss for the window on this leg of the trip, and was already out for the count. Just once, she wished they could find a cheap flight that didn’t turn her sleeping schedule upside down. But she wasn’t paying for the tickets, so it wasn’t as though she had much room to complain.

“The Atlanta connection was a bit cheaper,” she overheard Charles telling Copperfield, in the seats behind them. “But a two hour layover—I didn’t think that would be a good idea.” Then he dropped into French. “Vous ne savez jamais qui pourrait être regarder.”

You never know who might be watching. It was amazing how well her high-school French still held up.

Oui, je suis d’accord,” Copperfield replied. Even to her ear, his pronunciation sounded perfect. “Yes, I agree. Chicago’s much safer. With any luck, they’ll never know we were there.”

Diane wasn’t sure who “they” were, or why a two hour layover in O’Hare was somehow safer than one in Atlanta. One airport was really much like another when it came to that, wasn’t it? Long terminals, long walks from one gate to another, and at that hour, they’d be lucky if anything was even open.

Then she remembered a dark-eyed stranger standing in the hallway outside their hotel rooms, and she felt a chill that had nothing to do with the air-conditioning on the plane. At least Charles and Mr. Copperfield were with them. Was their arrival what had driven the stranger away?

And what had that all been about, anyway? How could anyone suspect Charles of stealing from a museum? He’d purchased the jar from an estate sale, she’d filed the paperwork for him. He hadn’t even used University money.

Charles had told them it was just a misunderstanding. That they’d talked to the night manager and handed the deluded bellhop over to hotel security. There was no FBI, just a silly prank that had gone wrong when the bellhop misread his room slip. The hotel management had been extremely apologetic, and had even removed the cost of last night’s hotel room and their meals for the day off the bill.

But that guy in the hallway… maybe he wasn’t FBI, but he had been real. And he hadn’t come across as the pranking kind.

Diane was very glad they were leaving Houston, even if it meant traveling overnight again, through Chicago to Baltimore. At least it felt like they were on the trail of something interesting, if they did get to see the Qebehsenuef jar. And if it had the strange writing as the Imseti jar that Charles had in his carry-on bag, that really would be a discovery. Would the writing be the same? Or different? Maybe they could even find the rest of the set, and track down how the pieces had been separated, and what the strange characters meant. She might even consider changing the topic of her dissertation, with such a fascinating find to research. Continue reading

Advertisements