Becky didn’t show up at the apartment before Emma left, but she did call from Lintner’s headquarters. “How did it go?” she asked.
“Fine,” Emma said. She reached over to turn down the volume of her tape, but was too late to keep Becky from noticing.
“Is that Carmen in the background?”
“It must not have gone too well if you’re listening to that.”
While having a friend like Becky who knew her so well was usually a blessing, sometimes it was a curse as well. “It was just seeing the little coffin for the baby.”
“Oh shit.” Becky sighed into the receiver. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
“It’s all right. There was a very nice old woman there. She helped me get through it.”
“Always good to rely on the kindness of strangers.”
“She was very kind. She’s a seamstress,” Emma said, not sure why she kept saying this.
“A kindly old seamstress? You meet all sorts in this city.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Not at all. I think it’s great.” Becky sighed again into the phone. “I have to go. Captain Bligh is still on the warpath. Take care of yourself, kid. And good luck on your non-date tonight.”
“I know, you’re just colleagues. This means nothing.”
“I wish you would believe me.”
“I wish I did too. Gotta go.”
Becky hung up, leaving Emma to sit on the bed listening to her tape of Carmen, her mother’s favorite opera. This was her mother’s last performance before she quit the orchestra, though she had performed a few more times after Emma was born. There was no solo for her in this performance, but Emma always thought she could hear her mother’s cello above everything else, even the singers. She closed her eyes, immersing herself in the music and story.
Six o’clock came far too soon. Emma roused herself from bed and then began the process of combing her hair and doing her makeup again. This time she applied a bit more so she wouldn’t be so pasty. As in Marston’s, she let her hair down to cover the naked back of the dress. She stuffed her feet into the shoes and then grabbed her purse.
Before leaving, she put on an overcoat, not wanting everyone on the bus to see her in the dress. On the walk to the bus stop she kept looking over her shoulder, waiting for someone to appear and attack her. It was still light enough, though, that most of the criminals were probably still hiding—like the ones who had killed Sarah MacGregor.
On the ride downtown, Emma kept looking down at her feet, in part to make sure her feet weren’t turning purple in the undersized shoes. There were of course cultures where women’s feet were broken or even cut so they could fit into smaller shoes. She shivered at this thought and then wished she had brought her Walkman and a tape to help soothe her nerves.
The place Dr. Dreyfus had indicated was about three blocks from the museum, in a slightly more downscale location. She saw him standing in front of a little café with a sign in Arabic that said, “Istanbul Café.”
Dr. Dreyfus wore a black overcoat as well; when he untied the belt she saw the tuxedo he was wearing and instantly felt underdressed. “I’m glad you could find the place,” he said.
“So am I,” she said.
He took her arm, leading her into the café. “I usually come here when I’m in town. They have great coffee. I’m not sure about the tea.”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” she said.
A very fat Arab man greeted them by shaking Dr. Dreyfus’s hand. In Arabic, he said, “Hello Daniel. Are you finally back in town to stay?”
“For a little while,” Dr. Dreyfus said in Arabic.
The man glanced at Emma and then said to Dr. Dreyfus, “Who is this lovely creature you bring into my establishment?”
“My name is Dr. Emma Earl,” she said in Arabic, taking them both by surprise. She chided herself for showing off, but she didn’t want them to think they could talk about her as if she wasn’t there.
“You speak Arabic very well,” the man said.
“Let me show you to a table.” He led them to a table in a corner, away from the few other patrons in the tiny café. “What will the lady be drinking?”
“Tea. Hot,” she said.
“Ah, yes. And coffee for you, Daniel?”
“That would be fine.”
The man hurried off, leaving them alone at last. The café was warm enough—or maybe it was just her nervousness—that Emma had to take off her overcoat. Dr. Dreyfus smiled at her. “That’s a great dress,” he said.
“You don’t think it’s a little boring?”
“Not at all. Very elegant.”
The man who had greeted them came back with their drinks. “Is there anything else I can get for you?” he asked.
“No, I think we’re fine,” Dr. Dreyfus said.
The man bowed slightly and then shuffled off over to the cash register, though Emma could sense his eyes still on them. “Do you come here a lot?” she asked.
“Usually before I go to work in the morning.” He took a sip of his coffee and then smiled. “You just can’t get coffee like this at home.”
Emma’s tea tasted good as well, easily the best she’d had in the city yet. “The tea is pretty good too,” she said.
“I’m glad you like it.” Dr. Dreyfus glanced over towards the cash register and then back at her. “So when did you learn Arabic?”
“When I was ten. My friend Becky had the mumps, so it gave me something to do.”
“You speak it like a natural. Have you ever been to the Middle East?”
“No, not yet.” She had never been anywhere outside the United States, not even to Canada, which was just a couple hundred miles north of the city.
“It’s a really fascinating region. There’s so much we can learn there.”
“Like about Karlak II?” she asked.
“That’s right.” He reached into the pocket of his tuxedo for a stack of note cards. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
He cleared his throat and then began to read from the cards. “For millennia, knowledge had lain buried in the sands. Only now are we beginning to clear those sands away and to discover what lies beneath.”
As Dr. Dreyfus went on, Emma listened intently. She found it fascinating how Dr. Dreyfus and his team had exposed Karlak’s tomb to the light of day and then unraveled the mystery surrounding him. His delivery, while unsteady at first, seemed to gather momentum as he went on, becoming more passionate as he described the significance of the discovery to understanding early Egyptian culture. “The more we understand about Karlak and his people, the more we understand about ourselves,” he said and then stopped. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.
“You’re sure it’s not too dry?”
“No, not at all,” she said, although she supposed as a fellow scientist she wouldn’t be the best judge of this. “I think they’ll really like it.”
“I hope so.” Dr. Dreyfus checked his watch. “We’d better get going. Wouldn’t want to be late for my own presentation.”
He took her arm, leading her over to the cash register, where they paid their bill. The man at the register thanked them in Arabic, saying, “Allah bless you.”
“And you,” Dr. Dreyfus said and then they left for the museum.