Chapter 28: Laying the Trap

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The dwelling was old – very old – but the foundations were tended and well maintained. The brick walls still stood sturdily, though they were patched from centuries of replaced bricks and sported many dozen cracks. They endured the test of time, weather, and the punishing heat of the Egyptian summers. Just like this day when the sun beat down on the expansive property and its many inhabitants. Field workers milled about, sweating in the midday heat, while the house staff cleaned and dried linens.

A young boy named Micah rocked on his heels as he hummed an innocent tune, waiting for the old lady to return. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but the pretty lady back in the city warned him to watch for "anything." So Micah kept his eyes open while pretending to look casually around. Some women carried a bunch of the cleaned sheets to a nearby building, though nothing else really caught his attention. Workers tended the animals, women laundered the linens, and men tilled the fields.

When he peeked through a doorway, he saw women making up a bed and whispering in hushed tones. He didn't know how that seemed important, but it did. Whenever people whispered, they could be hiding something, he supposed.

"Well, here you are, my boy!"

The voice jolted Micah from his scrutiny. He stared at the old lady in the doorway who spoke to him. She was older than dirt and had so many wrinkles Micah doubted she had any smooth skin left, but she showed a full set of teeth when she gave him a friendly smile.

"Oh! Thank you," he said, taking the pound notes from her and bowing his head.

He hurried away from the complex of houses and back toward the city streets of Alexandria, pulling his donkey along and stashing the pounds in his satchel with the other money from his deliveries. What the pretty lady promised him would more than make up for any skimming he usually took off the top. He finished the rest of his deliveries and reported back to his boss – who of course drilled him for being late again. It didn't bother him tonight.

After a rushed job cleaning up, he finally made it back to the apartment where she told him to meet her, and it was already becoming dark. He ran the several blocks to her place and was sweating and panting when he knocked on the door. He took the last few seconds before she answered to wring out his clammy hands and get his breathing back down to a reasonable rate.

Then she opened the door, and he lost his cool all over again. She was without a doubt the most beautiful person he had ever seen in his fourteen years of life. She stood before him, tall and slender with her perfect, creamy skin, wavy dark blonde locks, and striking hazel eyes. She smiled at him oh-so-sweetly and stepped aside so he could enter her apartment.

"Hi," he said, averting his eyes as he passed her.

"Have a seat, please," she said in Arabic, but with a slight accent that made her seem even more exotic. "Would you like a drink, baby?"

"Oh! Yeah, sure," he blurted.

He didn't even look to see what was in the glass that she handed him before taking a gulp, and he didn't really care. He just slurped down the karkadey and watched her as she settled on the couch next to him.

"So," she said, "tell me what you learned today?" She never stopped smiling at him.

He finished his gulp of the juice and smiled back at her. "Sorry, I didn't see the people you're looking for." He so wished he would find exactly what she wanted, so she would show him affection. "There wasn't much there except the regular workers and the al-Jahi's."

She placed a hand on his leg. "Are you sure? Nothing at all?"

"Well... no, not really, except some of the workers were whispering when they were making a bed. Does that help?"

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