The last thing I remember, the man with the forked beard and the girl in blue were standing over me. I heard the security guards running and shouting, getting closer. The girl crouched over me and drew a long curved knife from her belt.
“We must act quickly,” she told the man.
“Not yet,” he said with some reluctance. His thick accent sounded French. “We must be sure before we destroy them.”
I closed my eyes and drifted into unconsciousness.
S A D I E
3. Imprisoned with My Cat
[Give me the bloody mic.]
Hullo. Sadie here. My brother’s a rubbish storyteller. Sorry about that. But now you’ve got me, so all is well.
Let’s see. The explosion. Rosetta Stone in a billion pieces. Fiery evil bloke. Dad boxed in a coffin. Creepy Frenchman and Arab girl with the knife. Us passing out. Right.
So when I woke up, the police were rushing about as you might expect. They separated me from my brother. I didn’t really mind that part. He’s a pain anyway. But they locked me in the curator’s office for ages. And yes, they used our bicycle chain to do it. Cretins.
I was shattered, of course. I’d just been knocked out by a fiery whatever-it-was. I’d watched my dad get packed in a sarcophagus and shot through the floor. I tried to tell the police about all that, but did they care? No.
Worst of alclass="underline" I had a lingering chill, as if someone was pushing ice-cold needles into the back of my neck. It had started when I looked at those blue glowing words Dad had drawn on the Rosetta Stone and I knew what they meant. A family disease, perhaps? Can knowledge of boring Egyptian stuff be hereditary? With my luck.
Long after my gum had gone stale, a policewoman finally retrieved me from the curator’s office. She asked me no questions. She just trundled me into a police car and took me home. Even then, I wasn’t allowed to explain to Gran and Gramps. The policewoman just tossed me into my room and I waited. And waited.
I don’t like waiting.
I paced the floor. My room was nothing posh, just an attic space with a window and a bed and a desk. There wasn’t much to do. Muffin sniffed my legs and her tail puffed up like a bottlebrush. I suppose she doesn’t fancy the smell of museums. She hissed and disappeared under the bed.
“Thanks a lot,” I muttered.
I opened the door, but the policewoman was standing guard.
“The inspector will be with you in a moment,” she told me. “Please stay inside.”
I could see downstairs-just a glimpse of Gramps pacing the room, wringing his hands, while Carter and a police inspector talked on the sofa. I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
“Could I just use the loo?” I asked the nice officer.
“No.” She closed the door in my face. As if I might rig an explosion in the toilet. Honestly.
I dug out my iPod and scrolled through my playlist. Nothing struck me. I threw it on my bed in disgust. When I’m too distracted for music, that is a very sad thing. I wondered why Carter got to talk to the police first. It wasn’t fair.
I fiddled with the necklace Dad had given me. I’d never been sure what the symbol meant. Carter’s was obviously an eye, but mine looked a bit like an angel, or perhaps a killer alien robot.
Why on earth had Dad asked if I still had it? Of course I still had it. It was the only gift he’d ever given me. Well, apart from Muffin, and with the cat’s attitude, I’m not sure I would call her a proper gift.
Dad had practically abandoned me at age six, after all. The necklace was my one link to him. On good days I would stare at it and remember him fondly. On bad days (which were much more frequent) I would fling it across the room and stomp on it and curse him for not being around, which I found quite therapeutic. But in the end, I always put it back on.
At any rate, during the weirdness at the museum-and I’m not making this up-the necklace got hotter. I nearly took it off, but I couldn’t help wondering if it truly was protecting me somehow.
I’ll make things right, Dad had said, with that guilty look he often gives me.
Well, colossal fail, Dad.
What had he been thinking? I wanted to believe it had all been a bad dream: the glowing hieroglyphs, the snake staff, the coffin. Things like that simply don’t happen. But I knew better. I couldn’t dream anything as horrifying as that fiery man’s face when he’d turned on us. “Soon, boy,” he’d told Carter, as if he intended to track us down. Just the idea made my hands tremble. I also couldn’t help wondering about our stop at Cleopatra’s Needle, how Dad had insisted on seeing it, as if he were steeling his courage, as if what he did at the British Museum had something to do with my mum.
My eyes wandered across my room and fixed on my desk.
No, I thought. Not going to do it.
But I walked over and opened the drawer. I shoved aside a few old mags, my stash of sweets, a stack of maths homework I’d forgotten to hand in, and a few pictures of me and my mates Liz and Emma trying on ridiculous hats in Camden Market. And there at the bottom of it all was the picture of Mum.
Gran and Gramps have loads of pictures. They keep a shrine to Ruby in the hall cupboard-Mum’s childhood artwork, her O-level results, her graduation picture from university, her favorite jewelry. It’s quite mental. I was determined not to be like them, living in the past. I barely remembered Mum, after all, and nothing could change the fact she was dead.
But I did keep the one picture. It was of Mum and me at our house in Los Angeles, just after I was born. She stood out on the balcony, the Pacific Ocean behind her, holding a wrinkled pudgy lump of baby that would some day grow up to be yours truly. Baby me was not much to look at, but Mum was gorgeous, even in shorts and a tattered T-shirt. Her eyes were deep blue. Her blond hair was clipped back. Her skin was perfect. Quite depressing compared to mine. People always say I look like her, but I couldn’t even get the spot off my chin much less look so mature and beautiful.
[Stop smirking, Carter.]
The photo fascinated me because I hardly remembered our lives together at all. But the main reason I’d kept the photo was because of the symbol on Mum’s T-shirt: one of those life symbols-an ankh.
My dead mother wearing the symbol for life. Nothing could’ve been sadder. But she smiled at the camera as if she knew a secret. As if my dad and she were sharing a private joke.
Something tugged at the back of my mind. That stocky man in the trench coat who’d been arguing with Dad across the street-he’d said something about the Per Ankh.
Had he meant ankh as in the symbol for life, and if so, what was a per? I supposed he didn’t mean pear as in the fruit.
I had an eerie feeling that if I saw the words Per Ankh written in hieroglyphics, I would know what they meant.
I put down the picture of Mum. I picked up a pencil and turned over one of my old homework papers. I wondered what would happen if I tried to draw the words Per Ankh. Would the right design just occur to me?
As I touched pencil to paper, my bedroom door opened. “Miss Kane?”
I whirled and dropped the pencil.
A police inspector stood frowning in my doorway. “What are you doing?”
“Maths,” I said.
My ceiling was quite low, so the inspector had to stoop to come in. He wore a lint-colored suit that matched his gray hair and his ashen face. “Now then, Sadie. I’m Chief Inspector Williams. Let’s have a chat, shall we? Sit down.”
I didn’t sit, and neither did he, which must’ve annoyed him. It’s hard to look in charge when you’re hunched over like Quasimodo.
“Tell me everything, please,” he said, “from the time your father came round to get you.”
“I already told the police at the museum.”