فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

Professor Gomouchian

Next morning, Salahadin phoned Professor Gomouchian and arranged to see him. He took a taxi to Zamalek, where Professor Gomouchian lived.

Professor Gomouchian lived on the top floor of a high block of flats. Salahadin got out of the lift on the top floor and rang the bell of the flat door. The door was opened by the Professor’s housekeeper. The housekeeper knew Salahadin and showed him into the sitting-room. It was an unusual room, full of antiquities - stone pots, vases, and hundreds of small statues.

The blinds were drawn and it was rather dark in the room. Salahadin looked slowly round.

‘Hello,’ said a voice. It was Professor Gomouchian.

Professor Gomouchian was an old man - about eighty years old. He had a large head which was covered with long, white hair. He was sitting in a wheelchair and his legs were covered with a rug.

‘It’s been a long time since I last saw you,’ said the Professor, wheeling his chair up to Salahadin. The two men shook hands and Salahadin looked round the room once again.

‘You have your own museum here,’ said Salahadin. ‘It’s always a pleasure to come and visit you and look at your collection of antiquities.’

‘You don’t come here for pleasure,’ the Professor replied. ‘When you come here, you want to find out something. What is it this time?’

‘Have you heard of Dr John Farrow?’ asked Salahadin.

‘I’ve got his book here on my shelves,’ replied the Professor, pointing to the bookshelves behind him.

‘And have you read his ideas about Queen Axtarte and about where she was buried?’

‘Yes, I have,’ replied Professor Gomouchian. ‘And I think he may be right.’

‘I’m beginning to believe that he is right too,’ said Salahadin.

‘We know that Queen Axtarte was afraid of tomb robbers,’ continued the Professor. ‘It is possible that she had her tomb made on the east bank of the Nile because all the other tombs were on the west bank.’

‘But what about all the slaves who dug her tomb?’ asked Salahadin. ‘And all the nobles who attended her funeral? Why did none of them ever tell the secret of her tomb?’

‘The slaves were easy to deal with,’ replied Professor Gomouchian. ‘The Queen had them all killed.’

‘And the nobles?’

‘It was the custom to have a feast after a funeral in Ancient Egypt. The great feast after the funeral of Queen Axtarte was held in the Temple of Karnak. We know that before her death, the Queen ordered all the food to be poisoned . Everyone who attended her funeral had to attend the feast and eat the food. And they all died a terrible death.’

‘And that explains the writing on the stone pillar from the Temple of Kamak,’ added Salahadin.

‘That is a possible explanation,’ agreed the Professor. ‘One of the mourners managed to write a message on a stone pillar before he died.’

‘And the Curse of Queen Axtarte. What do you think about that?’ asked Salahadin. ‘Do you think she was trying to frighten away any tomb robbers? Or do you think she had another plan?’

Professor Gomouchian wheeled his chair up to the book-shelves and took down a copy of Farrow’s book. He opened the book and read out the words which are known as the Curse of Queen Axtarte.

‘I am Queen Axtarte - Queen of Queens. I shall live forever. These are my words: anyone who enters my tomb - anyone who steals from my tomb - anyone who touches my body - that person will die - that person will die a terrible death. And many more shall die with him.”

‘If you found the Queen’s tomb, would you go into it and touch anything?’ Salahadin asked the Professor.

‘No, I would not,’ was the immediate reply. ‘I would want to have a lot of scientific tests done before I did anything at the tomb of Queen Axtarte.’

‘But, why?’

The Professor took down another book from his bookshelves. It was called Poisons and Diseases in Ancient Egypt.

‘The Ancient Egyptians knew much more about the world than we think,’ he told Salahadin. ‘They knew something about disease and about poisons. There were many great plagues in Ancient Egypt. It is possible that Queen Axtarte had the germs of a terrible disease put in her tomb.’

‘So if anyone found the tomb, they might be in great danger?’

‘If anyone found the tomb and went inside, they would be in great danger,’ replied Professor Gomouchian.

‘I must go to Luxor immediately,’ said Salahadin. ‘Can you show me where the tomb might be?’

The Professor wheeled his chair to where a large map of Ancient Egypt was hanging on the wall. He took up a stick and pointed to a place thirty kilometres north-east of Karnak.

‘That’s where Farrow says it is,’ he said. ‘And I agree with him.’

While Salahadin was talking to Professor Gomouchian, Leila and Ahmed were at the Hotel Mirabel. They asked to speak to the Manager who was not pleased to see them.

‘We’ve had enough trouble from the police already because of Mr Farrow,’ the Manager said. ‘There’s nothing more we can do to help you.’

‘Yes, there is,’ Leila said politely. ‘We want to see the room that Mr and Mrs Farrow stayed in.’

The Manager checked the hotel register.

‘Room 501,’ the Manager told them. ‘It’s on the fifth floor - and it’s empty. You can look there if you want.’

Room 501 was a small room. It had one window which looked out onto the roof of a block of flats. There was a double bed, a wardrobe, and a small chest of drawers in the room. There was a small bathroom at one side.

Leila searched the bed - the mattress and the pillows. Then she looked inside the wardrobe and the chest of drawers. Ahmed searched the floor, the walls, and the lightshades. Then he looked carefully through the bathroom. They found nothing.

‘There’s nothing here,’ said Ahmed. ‘Let’s get out of this room.’

Leila had a last look round, but she found nothing. As she was walking to the door, she stopped at the window and looked out. The roof of a block of flats was quite near the window and slightly below it. The roof was covered with all kinds of rubbish.

‘I think we’ve found something,’ said Leila.

Leila had seen a book lying among the rubbish. It was just under the window of room 501. And, from the hotel bedroom window, Leila could read the title of the book. It was The Mystery of Queen Axtarte.

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