The Treasure of Tadmor

 

(A Kent family adventure)

 

 

By

Jennifer Keogh Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Treasure of Tadmor

by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong

 

Description: 88x31 2005

 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

 

 

U

ncle Ken has really come through for us!モ

Dad bursts into our living room. He was on the telephone a minute earlier. He must be pretty excited to interrupt our lesson. Momユs teaching us how to write hieroglyphs, which is pretty cool.

Weユre a pretty close family because my sister, Julia, and I have always been home-schooled. Dadユs an archaeologist specializing in the Bible and Uncle Ken is his brother and his assistant. Iユm Ginny and Iユm fourteen. Julia is twelve. There, now all the facts are out of the way.

メWhat is it, Andy?モ Mom asks. Dadユs first name is Anderson, his motherユs maiden name.

メTadmor in the wilderness, Helena!モ Dad says, excitedly.

We all look at him blankly.

メA city built up by Solomon,モ explains Dad. メNow believed by most scholars to be Palmyra in Syria.モ

メDad!モ I say excitedly, realizing where this might be going. メAre we going to . . . ?モ

メUncle Ken knows an archaeology professor at the University of Toronto whoユs organizing a dig in Palmyra starting this summer,モ continues Dad. メHeユs a Catholic and an expert in the Davidic/Solomonic reign in Israel and heユs going there with the sole intention of learning more about Tadmor. Itユs a five year dig. Heユs been granted a small area to investigate. Palmyra is an active tourist site bringing in a lot of revenue for Syria so they certainly donユt want all the later monuments being affected by this.モ

メWell,モ says Mom shutting up her book of hieroglyphs. メI think weユll be putting this on hold for a while and learning Arabic instead.モ

Dad laughs.

メIt wouldnユt hurt to know some conversational phrases, but for the most part weユll be with English speakers like ourselves,モ says Dad. メIn fact, everybody there will also be Canadian. Right now relations with America are a bit strained so Professor Lineman is only recruiting Canadian archaeologists. Ken has arranged that Iユll go as one of Professor Linemanユs assistants and that you guys will get to be in the loci.モ

Being in a locus is like being in a sandbox, except that you are digging through the sands of time.

メHow many people are going?モ asks Julia. My sister is the sociable one, pretty and well-liked by everybody we meet. I tend to be more serious. I like to learn when we travel with Dad and Mom.

メThere will be another assistant of Dr. Linemanユs, his teaching assistant actually. And about thirty of his university students will be coming to do the digging. I think Dr. Lineman is also bringing along his family so there may even be some kids close to your age there to make it more interesting.モ

メSo, I take it weユll be roughing it?モ says Mom.

メHard to say,モ Dad grins at her. Momユs never complained about some of the conditions weユve experienced when traveling with Dad, but itユs a lot nicer when the conditions are comfortable. メIf the Syrian government gives us permission, weユll be setting up camp just outside Palmyra. However, if they decide that that wonユt enhance the aesthetics of the ancient city, it will be one of the luxury hotels for us.モ

Mom looks hopeful.

メPalmyra is a beautiful ancient city and draws in a lot of tourism for Syria,モ says Dad. メHere, hold on.モ Heユs back in a minute with one of his expensive, highly illustrated, archaeology books.

We ooh and aah over the pictures of Palmyra.

Iユm getting excited. The Middle East is my favourite place to go. Itユs hard not to have an adventure when you travel to the Middle East.

メWeユll land in Damascus and hopefully have a day or two to see the sites,モ says Dad. メThen weユll all caravan up to Palmyra . . .モ

メYou mean on camels?モ interrupts Julia, sounding concerned.

Dad laughs.

メNo, probably in rental cars. I just mean weユll all travel as a group. Dr. Lineman thinks it will be easier and safer if we stick together. Plus, I believe his assistant is very proficient in Syrian history so weユll probably learn a lot from him . . .モ

メGreat,モ says Julia rolling her eyes. メJust what Iユve always wanted to know about, Syrian history.モ

Dad chuckles.

メWell, hopefully youユll learn to enjoy it. Tadmor history is interesting too . . .モ Dad prepares to launch into a lecture but is interrupted by the phone ringing.

Weユre too distracted to carry on with our lessons so Mom lets us get on the internet and learn more about Syria and our destination, Palmyra. Thankfully we have two computers and a network that allows us both to surf the net separately because Julia looks up what clothing is appropriate in Syria and what kind of food they eat while I read up on history. We donユt stop until Mom calls us for dinner.

 

We keep our passports up-to-date and Dr. Lineman is taking care of the group visa. Thankfully, Syria is a relatively safe, clean country so there are no shots we have to get before going. Mom goes to the bank to get our Canadian dollars changed into pounds and piastres.

Iユm relieved to read online that a lot of Syrians speak English because Arabic isnユt easy to learn. Iユve totally given up on reading it but Iユm going to learn a few useful phrases just to show the Syrian people that Iユm trying. Yes is naユam. No is la. Hello is marhaba. Thank you is shukran.

Because Syria is an Arabic country, Dad wants us to dress modestly so we donユt offend -- long skirts and shirts for sightseeing, no short shorts for the dig. But then again, Mom and Dad have never let us wander around in anything too radically revealing.

Weユre leaving in two weeks, the first week in May. According to what Iユve read, May is the transition between winter and summer so we have to be prepared for any kind of weather. Juliaユs packed and unpacked three times because she doesnユt just have to dress for the weather. She has to have some attractive outfits in case she falls in love and wants to make a good impression. Me, I pack once and then forget about it.

 

The big day for our departure arrives. Since weユre traveling as an entourage, Dr. Lineman suggests that we meet at Torontoユs Pearson International Airport an hour earlier than we have to, just to get acquainted with each other. He names a restaurant in the terminal that weユre departing out of.

Itユs 6:00 p.m. and weユre the first to arrive. Since our flight doesnユt leave until 9:00, we all want a snack to see us through until the first meal on the plane. I get some rice pudding, Dad and Mom have pie and coffee, Julia orders a hamburger and fries. We all look at her, startled. She shrugs.

メIユm hungry. Besides, who knows when Iユll get to see a burger and fries again?モ

Dr. Lineman, along with his wife and three sons, arrives halfway through our snack. Dr. Lineman and Mrs. Lineman look a few years older than Dad and Mom. Theyユre both dressed comfortably for the long trip, him in a rumpled white shirt and khaki pants, she in a long, loose floral dress. Even though weユve never met them before, they greet us like old friends.

Dr. Lineman introduces us to his sons.

Liam is eighteen, taller than his parents, with wavy brown hair and a handsome face. But heユs aloof, obviously not interested in our family in a big way. As the college students begin arriving, he perks up. Some of them are only one or two years older than him.

Steve is fifteen. He has freckles and curly blond hair and although heユs not good-looking like Liam, heユs friendly and strikes me as being energetic.

Glen is thirteen. He has straight dark hair and glasses and looks serious. Heユs carrying a knapsack that we find out later is full of books.

Mrs. Lineman goes and orders her family some Cokes while we wait for the last few students to arrive.

メTwo more to go,モ says Mr. Lineman checking his list and surveying those who have already arrived. He and Dad are soon discussing the layout of the dig site and how many people will go where and what area might yield the best results.

メAny news on whether weユll be camping or in the hotel?モ Mom asks Mrs. Lineman.

Mrs. Lineman laughs.

メMy vote is for the hotel. I imagine yours is too. Unfortunately, itユs still up in the air. A representative from the Syrian government will be meeting us in Palmyra in four days and letting us know then.モ

メDo we have the gear for camping?モ Mom asks.

メApparently we can purchase tents like the Bedouins use in the marketplace,モ says Mrs. Lineman.

メThat would be so cool!モ says Steve enthusiastically.

メIユm afraid that if we end up camping, the task of equipping our camp may fall to us ladies,モ says Mrs. Lineman. メMy husband would be happy in a sleeping bag under the stars eating beef jerky for breakfast. So if we want to live a little more civilized we might have to become well acquainted with the local marketplace.モ

メCamel meat,モ says Steve cheerfully. メRoasted over a big pit.モ

メI was thinking along the lines of pita bread and hummus and fresh vegetables and fruit,モ says his mother. メMaybe a roasted lamb,モ she concedes. メOn the other hand, if weユre in a hotel it may be continental breakfasts and a nice dinner served on real china . . .モ

メAaaaaggghhh,モ Steve groans.

The last two stragglers arrive and Dr. Lineman claps his hands for our attention.

メOK folks! Grab your luggage! Weユre going to check in. Stick together.モ

Weユre flying to New York City first where weユll have two hours to make the connecting flight to Damascus. We cause quite a commotion with our large group but eventually weユre all processed and our luggage is tagged and sent on hopefully to arrive with us in Damascus. A few students have family or friends to see them off and they linger for a while on the public side saying their good-byes while the rest of us move through the metal detectors and then onto the waiting room where our flight boards.

Dad and Dr. Lineman talk archaeology. Mom and Mrs. Lineman compare travel stories. Liam is in the midst of a group of college students where heユll remain for the rest of the trip. Steve is fidgety and keeps getting up to look out the windows at the planes. Glen pulls a book out of his knapsack and begins to read. I do a crossword puzzle in a book Iユve brought along. Julia people-watches.

The flight from Toronto to New York goes by quickly. Thereユs just enough time for a light supper of sandwiches and chips to be served before weユre touching down at La Guardia. Once off the plane, Dr. Lineman leads us all to the Syrian Arab Airlines waiting area, which seems to be a mile away from where we disembarked. Thankfully, weユre not carrying our luggage. By the time we are all checked in there are just thirty minutes until our flight so no one goes exploring except maybe to buy a pop or a magazine.

By the time weユre on the plane, Iユm ready to sleep. Itユs dark outside and once weユre up in the air I settle back and try to doze. Most of our group does the same, although a few pull out a magazine or use the headphones to listen to the in-flight music.

At about two in the morning a snack is served to anyone who is awake. Julia shakes me awake. She has an instinct for food.

Sleepily, we nibble on cheese and crackers and grapes. After that, an in-flight movie starts except that Iユm too tired to watch it and drift back to sleep.

Breakfast is served -- scrambled eggs, beef sausage, biscuits, fruit, coffee, tea, and juice. Most of us are grateful for the coffee. Iユve been drinking coffee for years now. When you have to get up before the sun on a dig-site, itユs the only way to get going.

Iユm starting to feel restless and I long to just stretch my legs. Due to our stop in Amsterdam to refuel, we wonユt arrive in Damascus until the afternoon. The only way to take a walk on a plane is to visit the bathroom, which I need to use anyhow.

When I get back to my seat, Glen is in it. Much to my surprise heユs being quite animated considering how quiet heユs been up to now. He seems to be telling Julia about the book heユs reading and she doesnユt mind which is funny considering how little reading she does herself.

Well that leaves me to sit in Glenユs seat which is on the aisle beside Steve. My plan is to pull out my crossword puzzle book, but I donユt get the chance.

メGold, silver,モ says Steve to me abruptly, but quietly. メLost treasure. You do know all about that, donユt you?モ

My look tells him that I very clearly donユt know all about that.

メThe students donユt know, of course. My dad knows. Your dad knows. Thatユs what weユre looking for. The riches of Solomon.モ

メThe riches of Solomon?!モ I whisper in shock. メI had no idea! Are you serious?モ

メNo,モ says Steve in a regular conversational voice as he sighs and leans back in his seat. メBut I wish.モ

I laugh.

メWhat are we looking for then?モ I ask.

Steve shrugs.

メAny sort of evidence that Solomon had anything to do with the city. A nice clay tablet with his name on it would make my dad die of joy.モ

メBut you think treasure would be more exciting?モ

メOf course! Then weユd have all sorts of treasure hunters lurking around our camp, waiting to steal our booty. Weユd have to fight them off . . .モ

メDonユt forget a wild foot-chase through the local souk while being pursued by knife-wielding Arabs,モ I say.

メBut of course,モ says Steve. メStandard operating procedure.モ

メI guess sitting in a pile of dirt chipping away one centimetre at a time can be a little monotonous,モ I concede. メI wouldnユt mind a little adventure but if anyone starts waving guns and knives around, Iユll be happy to let you do the battling.モ

メMy pleasure,モ says Steve gallantly. メAnd I promise that if thereユs any hint of adventure in this whole dig, Iユll be sure and let you know. So I hear you guys home-school too.モ He abruptly changes the topic.

メOh for sure,モ I say. メWith dadユs job, our parents have always thought that traveling with him should be part of our education.モ

Steve nods.

メThatユs my dad and mom too. The irony is my dadユs a teacher and heユs totally against classroom learning. Says itユs a great way to kill most peopleユs love of learning.モ

メI know. Momユs always been pretty creative about our learning. I just took it for granted until a friend at Mass told me how bored she is most of the time, even though she gets good grades. She goes to public school. I donユt know what itユs like in the Catholic schools.モ

メYou guys go to Mass?モ

メYeah, definitely. Donユt you?モ Dad and Mom have always taught us not to be embarrassed or defensive about our faith and not to let anyone make us feel inferior because we believe in God or attend Mass regularly.

Steve shrugs.

メIユve been. Not voluntarily though.モ

He sighs heavily and continues.

メDad has always read the Bible because itユs good ancient history. Mom has always prayed a lot, especially since she thinks everythingユs dangerous. But I dunno . . . God, I mean. Who believes in God these days?モ

I smile. Thatユs something Dadユs heard a lot and I remember one of his answers.

メWho cares who believes in God these days?モ I say. メIf he exists, it doesnユt really matter. And if he exists, ignoring him isnユt going to make him go away.モ

メYeah, but no offence, why do we need God?モ

Iユm kind of surprised to be having this conversation. Dad said Dr. Lineman is Catholic. I guess Steve has fallen away a bit.

メMaybe right now you think you donユt need him,モ I say. メBut what if this plane suddenly started nose-diving for the ground? The Bible says that God hears the prayers of the righteous. No offence, but your prayers wouldnユt do a lot to save this plane.モ

Steve grins.

メOdds are this plane isnユt going to go down.モ

メYeah, but what are the odds youユre going to die? Maybe not today, but someday?モ

Steve shrugs.

メPretty high odds, I guess.モ

Iユd be happy to leave it at that, but Steve keeps pushing. He goes on about how you donユt need God to be successful and that most of the people at his parentsユ Church are losers. God is just for people who donユt have a life.

If heユs trying to get a reaction from me, it works.

メThe Bible says that after you die thereユs a judgement,モ I say. メHow do you think youユre going to do in the judgement?モ

メIユll do OK,モ he says. メIユm basically a good person. I may even make it into heaven.モ

 メIユm sure youユve told a lie or been less than loving with someone . . .モ

メOK, OK, I didnユt say I was perfect,モ says Steve sounding exasperated. メBut who is? Itユs not really fair to say I have to be perfect. Whoユs perfect?モ

メJesus was perfect,モ I say. メWeユre supposed to try to be like him.モ

Steve sighs.

メAre you guys Bible-thumpers? ヤCause Iユm not going to hang out with you if you spend the whole time trying to get me to say a prayer to let Jesus come into my heart . . .モ

Itユs my turn to sigh.

メWeユre not Bible-thumpers. In fact, if you hadnユt asked me about Mass, this conversation would have never got started.モ

メWell,モ he says. メTruce. Iユm not dumb enough to mess with someoneユs faith.モ

メI thought you were baptized,モ I say. メIsnユt it your faith, too?モ

メItユs my parentsユ faith. My dad had some weird experience about two years ago where he came home from a Bible scholarユs convention. Heユd met some guy who talked to him and convinced him he was a sinner and needed to be saved. And, like, he was all happy about it, as if somebody telling him he was a sinner was the best news heユd ever heard . . .モ

I laugh.

メWhat about your mom?モ I ask.

Steve shrugs.

メShe became Catholic, too. Now she prays the Rosary all the time. She seems to think itユs the answer to everything. Got a problem? Pray the Rosary!モ

I laugh. I canユt help it. Itユs true, though. The Blessed Mother really comes through. But Iユll save that conversation with Steve for another time because a flight attendant is coming around with earphones for another in-flight movie. Steve and I both take them. After a lunch of finger foods and a brief nap, the long-awaited words come.

メPassengers, this is your captain speaking. We are due to touch down in Damascus in twenty minutes.モ


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

 

 

D

amascus! Even the modern airport feels exotic.

Once we are past customs and into the public section, we are enveloped by a completely different culture. Groups of Arabs are enthusiastically greeting the people from our plane who are returning home. They get hugs and smiles and boisterous enthusiasm. I feel kind of left out that we have nobody whoユs excited to see us.

Getting everybodyユs luggage and making our way to the rental car kiosk takes us about an hour. Dr. Lineman has chartered a bus and a driver and is earnestly hoping that it will all be waiting for us.

It isnユt, but the lady at the rental desk assures us that itユs only a matter of a phone call and it will be here in fifteen minutes.

Julia has to go to the bathroom and we have a rule when traveling, nobody goes anywhere by themselves. So Mom and I escort her.

Arabic bathrooms have no toilets, just a tile floor and a hole in the middle. Itユs actually a pretty clean system; you just have to get used to it.

The bus and driver arrive and we all get on board. We enjoy the mix of modern and ancient as we drive through the busy streets of Damascus to our hotel.

In the interest of economy we are staying at a small middle-of-the-road hotel rather than a luxury one, but Dr. Lineman assures us that itユs only a short walk to the Old City and some of the most important sites in Damascus.

メIf youユre up to it,モ he says standing at the front of the bus before we disembark, メthere is the Umayyad Mosque, a beautiful work of architecture. Please travel in groups of at least two or three and the ladies need to be escorted by one of our gentlemen at all times. If youユre more inclined to do some shopping, thereユs the Souq el Hamadiyeh which will give a taste of local culture and cuisine. And speaking of cuisine, we will meet back at the hotel tonight at 7:00 for dinner in the hotel dining room. Iユll see you all then.モ

Thereユs no way my family is going to stay in our hotel room until dinner, although some students seem happy to head upstairs with their luggage for a rest in a real bed.

We drop off our luggage in our room and then head out -- Dad all decked out with camera and guidebook.

メUmayyad Mosque is the place to start,モ he declares. He consults the map in the guidebook. メThis way.モ We start walking through the busy street.

Iユm glad that our parents insisted on long skirts and modest shirts for us since many of the women are wearing the long robes and head covering of devout Muslims. Some of the female college students in our group are going to get a lot of stares from the locals.

The funny thing about traveling is how some things seem so exotic and some things seem so familiar. Some of the buildings are modern enough that we could be in Toronto except that the signs are in Arabic.

When we get to the mosque, Mom revels in the architecture while Dad reads aloud from the guidebook. Julia and I are both glad that our parents donユt quiz us on all the historical facts thrown at us when we travel.

Dad and Mom insist on seeing the whole place inside and out, including an extensive collection of wall mosaics so weユre there for nearly two hours. Dad promises that weユll head over to the Souq el Hamadiyeh for some shopping and then try out a famous Damascus treat -- home-made vanilla ice-cream wrapped in pistachios at Beckdach.

The Souq is an authentic shopping experience. It has a few stores geared towards tourists but most of it is for the average city-dweller.

Dad buys us some long dresses and head scarves, just in case we need to blend in, not to mention that they make great souvenirs.

Mom checks out the brassware while Julia and I oooh and aaaah over some of the beautiful silks. Julia eventually buys a silk scarf while I hold on to my money in case anything appeals to me later on.

Beckdachs is packed. There are about three hundred Arabs in this one restaurant that seems to exclusively serve vanilla ice-cream. When we try the ice cream we can understand why. This is no ordinary buy-it-in-your-freezer-section ice cream experience. We agree that we would have all had seconds except that itユs now 6:30 and we need to return to the hotel for dinner.

Back in our hotel room, we take turns washing up and then head down to the hotel dining room.

Itユs a small dining room so our group takes up most of it. Dr. Lineman has gone ahead and ordered a meal in advance so that our food will be ready when we arrive. Weユre seated at a large table with Dr. Lineman and his family and his teaching assistant, Henry. Henry is in his early twenties, slim, with sandy brown hair and glasses. Heユs quiet while Dr. Lineman and Dad immediately begin comparing notes about their sight-seeing.

We enjoy our meal of hummus, pita bread, raw vegetables, and roasted lamb. Custard is served for dessert, along with fruit platters.

メGet an early night,モ Dr. Lineman calls out as our dinner group begins to break up. メIt will be a full day of sightseeing tomorrow and then in the late afternoon weユll start heading north for Palmyra.モ

 

メThe walls were built in the Roman era,モ Henry is saying the next day.

A few students are stifling yawns. Henry is knowledgeable, but somewhat dry in his presentation. Heユs at the front of the bus while weユre driving around the Old City.

メNote the tapered stones. The design is similar to a Roman military camp or fortification. There are seven gates, Bab Sharqi, Bab al-Jabieh, Bab Keissan, Bab al-Saghir, Bab Tuma, Bab al-Jeniq, and hmmm, Iユm missing one.モ Henry thinks for a minute.

メI canユt believe heユs doing all this from memory!モ I whisper to Steve whoユs seated across the aisle from me. Steve gives me a wicked grin. Heユs reading a Louis LユAmour novel.

メOh yes, Bab Faradiss. Now, the main road ran from Bab al-Jabieh to Bab Sharqi. Corinthian columns ran down both sides and numerous triumphal arches were erected by the Romans.モ

Dr. Lineman and Dad seem to be enjoying themselves, both listening attentively. Mrs. Lineman appears to be listening but sheユs also knitting. Mom is spending a lot of time looking out the window.

メSince most of you hopefully visited the Ummayad Mosque yesterday, our first stop will be the Azem Palace, built in the eighteenth century for the governor of Damascus. Youユll find the simple exterior is deceptive. The interior is one of space, beauty and sophistication.モ

We pull up to a parking lot and begin to unload while Henry keeps talking and directing us to our destination.

メSo,モ says Steve conversationally, outside the bus. メHave you seen anyone following us? Any shady characters who might possibly be on our trail because they know itユs only a matter of time before we discover the treasure of Tadmor?モ He sounds hopeful.

メSorry,モ I say regretfully. メI think that today weユll just have to resign ourselves to being tourists.モ

メWell, while Henryユs being a guidebook, I think Iユll sneak away for a bit.モ

メAre you allowed to do that?モ

He sighs.

メOf course not. Thatユs the whole point. Wanna come?モ

メNo thanks. Sneaking off in foreign countries is the type of thing that upsets my parents. Theyユre strange that way.モ

He shrugs.

メSuit yourself.モ

He lingers behind and I try not to give him away by looking back. Julia and Glen are hanging out together and having a great time so I decide to join my mom and Mrs. Lineman on our tour around Azem Palace.

Henry proves himself every inch a tour guide, even going so far as to give a little talk on wall tiles and how theyユre manufactured in the Middle East. Most of the people at the Azem Palace look like tourists, but there is still an exotic feeling about the experience because most of the visitors are still Arab. A few are Europeans. I recognize some of them speaking in French, some in German.

It is to Henryユs credit that he keeps Steveユs parents so entranced with his abundant knowledge of mid-eighteenth century Arab architecture that they donユt notice heユs missing until we pause to buy some cold drinks from a street vendor. I can see his mom worriedly looking over our group and then approaching her husband for a brief, hushed discussion. I feel bad. I mean, I didnユt run off on the group but I feel really low for even knowing about what Steveユs done.

Dr. Lineman grimly surveys our group. Thankfully he doesnユt focus on me because I think I would crumple and confess everything on the spot.

When it is clear that Steve is not in the group, Dr. Lineman approaches Dad and they have a discussion that very quickly includes their wives. Mom glances at me and then comes over.

メSteve seems to be missing,モ she says quietly. メAny idea where he might be?モ

メNo, Mom,モ I say truthfully.

Mom just looks at me. Can mothers read minds, or something?

メDid he leave voluntarily?モ she asks.

メYes, Mom,モ I say, holding my head down.

By this time, Julia and Glen are straining to hear the conversation and some of the students are looking around to try to figure out whatユs going on.

Mom goes back to report her information to the adults. Thankfully the Linemans donユt seem mad at me. I guess they know their son well enough by now.

The adults are conferring, obviously trying to decide what to do next. Henry is oblivious to it all and begins herding everyone to the bus.

メWeユve got to hurry if weユre going to fit everything in,モ he calls out. メThe Damascus Citadel is next.モ

Dr. Lineman opens his mouth, looking as if heユs about to interrupt Henry, but then changes his mind.

メItユs the only fortress in Syria built on the same level as the city,モ enthuses Henry. メIt was erected by the Seljuks in 1078. The stones were taken from the city wall to build the citadel. Itユs a city within a city. They built houses, baths, mosques and schools. But Iユll save the details for when we get there . . .モ

By now, most of the students are aboard the bus. I linger behind with my parents and the Linemans.

メIユm afraid weユll just have to stay here until he shows up,モ sighs Dr. Lineman. メAnderson, you and your family go on ahead and watch the troops. My wife and I will catch a taxi and meet you at the citadel . . .モ

Just then a young Arab boy runs up to Dr. Lineman.

メPlease, sir,モ he says.

Dr. Lineman is about to wave him away as a beggar but then sees the boy is holding out a piece of paper. He takes the paper and reads it. A look of concern crosses his face.

メPlease, sir,モ says the boy again. He clearly wants some money.

メWho gave this to you?モ demands Dr. Lineman.

The boy shrugs.

Dr. Lineman grabs the boyユs arm.

メWeユll talk it over with the police,モ he says, but the boy is quick. He twists his arm and escapes from Dr. Linemanユs grasp. He scampers off through the crowds and following him is hopeless.

Wordlessly, Dr. Lineman hands the note to my dad.

Without being too obvious, I read over his shoulder.

メStay away from the treasure of Tadmor if you want to see your son again.モ


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

 

 

 

F

or a moment, weユre all quiet.

メWell,モ says Liam, to break the silence. Heユs standing by his dad. メOn the bright side, at least it confirms that there is a treasure of Tadmor.モ

Dad and Mom look at each other. This is the first time theyユve heard of any treasure of Tadmor. Obviously itユs something the Linemans have discussed. But the way Steve talked, I thought it was all just wishful thinking.

Dr. Lineman sighs.

メLiam,モ he replies slowly, メIユm not convinced this is authentic. I wouldnユt be surprised if your brother wrote this note.モ

メIt is the type of thing he would do,モ agrees Glen, who has joined the inner circle along with Julia.

メWe canユt assume that!モ Mrs. Lineman cries out. She turns to her husband. メDarling, Steve could be in danger!モ

メYes, dear,モ says Dr. Lineman, メand weユll operate on that assumption. Anderson, it wonユt do anyone any good to have all the students just sitting watching from the bus. You escort the group to the Citadel and whatever else Henry has planned, then head north. Weユll rendezvous tonight in Homs.モ

メDarling . . .モ Mrs. Lineman begins.

メWeユll rent a car,モ explains Dr. Lineman. メAnd, no, we wonユt leave Damascus until we find Steve.モ

メSo if you donユt show up in Homs tonight . . . ?モ Dad asks.

メDo a bit of sightseeing in the morning and then head up to Tadmor in the afternoon. Start without me. Iユll be there as soon as I can. Boys,モ Dr. Lineman turns to his sons. メGo with the Kents. You wonユt be able to do much if you stay with us. Please pray for us.モ

Silently, Mom hugs Mrs. Lineman, tears in both of their eyes, and then we board the bus.

 

Itユs hard to concentrate on the Damascus Citadel, even with Henry enthusiastically pointing out the walls, towers, trenches, and a moat. He launches into a history of the Citadel, including a detailed description of the Crusader raids.

I have to admit, considering how Steve was talking, it sure sounds as if he orchestrated this whole thing. But what I canユt understand is why heユd be willing to scare his parents so badly.

Liam is no longer hanging out with the college students but is now silently sharing a seat with Glen on the bus.

There are some hushed conversations going on among the college students, probably speculation as to why Dr. Lineman isnユt with the group anymore, but thereユs no way any of them could know the reason.

Henry has planned any hour long visit to one of the souks and then weユll be going north to Homs. Most of the students seem happy to have a chance to do some quick shopping but Dad signals to us to stay on board the bus so we can do some praying. Henry has been briefed by Dad as to what is going on but he opts to head out with the students. Glen and Liam stay. They donユt pray but they donユt seem to mind that we pray aloud for the safe return of Steve. After that, Dad leaves the bus to buy us some cold drinks while we wait for the students to return. We all hope that Dr. and Mrs. Lineman and Steve will miraculously show up, but of course, they didnユt know where we were heading after the Citadel.

With only half a mind on the scenery, we drive through the Syrian countryside towards Homs. Absently, I notice the sheep and shepherds, the occasional Bedouin tent, the green fields mixed with dry desert patches.

Glen has returned to reading a book. Liam is listening to an mp3 player. Julia is back beside me, staring off into the distance. Across from us, my parents are talking quietly. Finally, I pull out my book of crossword puzzles to make the long drive go a little faster.

By late evening, we arrive in Homs at the hotel that Dr. Lineman has previously booked for us. Hurriedly Dad exits the bus, muttering something about wanting to confirm our reservation, but I know heユs really in a hurry to see if Dr. Lineman, Mrs. Lineman and Steve have preceded our arrival.

Henry begins to usher us off the bus to retrieve our luggage and enter into the lobby of the hotel. Dad rejoins our group, looking grim. We donユt have to ask him whether Dr. Lineman is here.

メOK folks,モ Dad calls out. メGet your keys at the reception and then when youユve taken your luggage to your room, there will be a light supper served in the dining room.モ

Henry sits with us and Dr. Linemanユs sons at supper. Itユs so late weユre the only group in the dining room. The food is being served buffet-style and there is only one waiter to make sure everyone has drinks and that the plates are cleared away when weユre done.

メDr. Kent,モ begins Henry. メA lot of the students are, uh, concerned about Dr. Linemanユs absence. Some are asking me questions. What should I say?モ

メThat Dr. Lineman was detained in Damascus,モ says Dad. メHopefully by the time we reach Palmyra weユll have some good news to report.モ

After the long day, we all fall into bed and Iユm asleep before I even have time to think.

 

The first thing I notice when I wake up is that Dad and Momユs bed is empty. A shower is running in the bathroom but that only accounts for one of them. Julia is still sleeping.

A few minutes later, Dad comes into the room just as Mom is exiting the bathroom wearing a bathrobe and her hair wrapped in a towel.

メOK family,モ he says. メThe breakfast buffet runs for another hour, but when we go down we have to bring our luggage with us to be loaded onto the bus. So no dawdling.モ

This wakes up my sister and she sleepily heads for the bathroom.

メAny news, Andy?モ Mom asks.

Dad sighs.

メNo,モ he says.

 

メHoms is the third most important city in Syria,モ Henry is saying. メIt was also the third station on the Silk Route after Doura Europas and our ultimate destination, Palmyra. Itユs still an important city because the oil pipelines pass right through it.モ

Iユm sort of listening. Juliaユs not even pretending to listen but is writing a letter to one of our cousins back home. She can only get away with this because Dad and Mom are several rows behind us, choosing to sit amongst the students. Our travels are considered an extension of our home-schooling and Dad and Mom expect us to learn something as we go.

Henry starts talking about some Roman emperor, Septimium Severus, and his genealogy and how this all relates to Homs. I have to admit, my mind wanders.

After a while, Henry switches topics.

メWeユll be passing by one of the most significant sites in Homs, the mosque of Khaled Ibn al-Walid, the great commander of the Muslim Arab armies.モ Henry points out the examples of traditional Syrian architecture, as we slowly pass by the mosque. メIユm afraid we donユt have time to stop because Dr. Lineman wanted me to take you on a tour of the many churches that still stand from the early days of Christianity in this area. If youユre into icons, one of the churches is said to possess the girdle of the Virgin Mary.モ

His tone suggests that he doesnユt buy into this stuff and would probably prefer a visit to the mosque. Despite this, Henry proves to be a knowledgeable guide. Our first stop is the church of St. Elian and Henry has a whole lecture prepared on the collection of frescoes in the church discovered in 1970 that bear Greek and Arabic inscriptions and date back to the end of the 12th century.

Liam is back to hanging out with the college students and Glen is walking along with Julia so Iユm kind of stuck by myself. It makes me miss Steve even though I barely know him.

After the churches we have lunch at a Syrian restaurant -- a lavish spread of cucumbers, tomatoes, meat kabobs, pita bread, and hummus. Thereユs a small market outside the restaurant and Dad suggests to the students that they buy some dried or fresh fruit to take with them since there wonユt be another stop. Mom buys our family a bag of oranges and after everyoneユs done their shopping, weユre back on the bus, heading for Palmyra.

 

After a brief discussion about the desert that weユre passing through, Henry sits down and weユre left to our own thoughts. Whenever we travel to a foreign country, I always think that itユs silly to bring a novel to read when I can be absorbing all the new sites. But I have to admit, at this point in our travels, the scenery is all starting to look the same and Julia is kind enough to lend me one of her adventure novels. I notice that most of the university students have also turned to books, magazines, and mp3 players to pass the time.

By evening, weユre pulling into Palmyra.

 

Until we figure out whatユs what, weユre staying in one of Palmyraユs many hotels. Henry has the name of the Syrian representative who is supposed to be able to advise us about a possible campsite, so the first thing Dad does when we get to the hotel is to try to contact the man.

Thereユs no sign of Dr. and Mrs. Lineman so rather soberly, we head for the hotel dining room for a light evening meal of soup, pita bread, hummus, fruit and vegetables.

Dad appears halfway through our meal. He signals to Liam and Glen to join us at our table.

メBoys,モ he says. メI have serious news. I talked to Abdullah, your fatherユs contact in the Syrian government. He informs me that your brother hasnユt been found yet and that the entire police force here in Syria is on the alert. Any hope that this is just a hoax on the part of your brother is pretty much demolished.モ

Liam and Glen look concerned as they exchange glances with each other.

メBut Dad isnユt after some treasure,モ says Liam, quietly. The students still havenユt been officially informed of whatユs going on. メHeユd be happy to find a few pieces of pottery or some sort of link between Israelite culture and Syrian culture, some sort of proof of Solomonユs influence here.モ

メThatユs the bizarre part,モ says Dad, nodding. メThe note seems to suggest that thereユs more to this site than we first realized.モ

メItユs only Steve who ever said that Dad should find some treasure,モ Liam continues. メHe even announced it to some bigwigs Dad had invited over to our place for dinner.モ

メReally?モ says Dad. メWhat people?モ

Liam thinks back.

メSyrians, actually. They had something to do with this dig and the university.モ

メItユs possible someone took him seriously,モ says Dad, thoughtfully.

メBut who would send a note like that?モ asks Glen. メWho doesnユt want us to find something?モ

メA good question,モ says Dad. メThere are a lot of people involved in this case now. The abduction of an archaeologistユs son would be big news here and the Syrian police donユt want this to become an international incident. For now, theyユre trying to keep it a secret. For one thing, they donユt want a bunch of treasure hunters showing up in Palmyra tearing the place apart.モ

メThen I take it we canユt tell anyone why Dad isnユt here?モ says Liam.

メユFraid not,モ says Dad. メI didnユt speak directly with your Dad but Abdullah says to carry on with his work here. Starting tomorrow weユll set up a camp. Iユm going to need some help with that. Weユll have to buy tents in the local market, not to mention all our gear. My wife will be in charge of the meals . . .モ

Mom looks surprised at this.

メAnd weユll divide the students up into rotating shifts so that sheユll get a lot of assistance,モ he says glancing at her. メMy daughters will, of course, be wonderful helping her.モ

He smiles at us.

I would have been digging, but now, thanks to Steve, Iユll be doing a lot of shopping for food and a lot of chopping vegetables.

メIsnユt this going to put Steveユs life in danger?モ asks Liam.

メThatユs been discussed,モ says Dad. メThe note warns us to stay away from the treasure of Tadmor. It doesnユt say to go home or abandon the dig. So tomorrow the government has arranged a highly publicized press conference where Iユll be clearly stating our objectives here and believe me, Iユll be emphasizing how much we want to find the ordinary everyday objects of Solomonic Tadmor, particularly any pottery that might establish a link between this site and Israel at the time of the United Kingdom.モ

Liam nods.

メWell, Iユm sure thatユs what Dad wants.モ

Liam and Glen say goodnight to us and head up to their room.

メWhatユs the matter, Andy?モ asks Mom softly, after the Lineman boys are gone. Dad is staring off into the distance, a frown on his face.

He takes a deep breath and then exhales.

メIユm worried,モ he admits, still speaking low. メItユs true that weユd be satisfied with some pottery or some other trinkets that would establish a trading link between here and Jerusalem. But Solomon was a rich man. He made gold as common as stones in Israel. So what if the link between here and Israel really is the treasure of Tadmor?モ

メThen what happens to Steve?モ Mom frowns as this sinks in.

メExactly,モ says Dad.


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

 

 

D

ad is gone when Mom wakes me and Julia up at 8:00.

メCユmon, sleepyheads,モ she says, grinning at us. メDadユs going to be back from his press conference any minute and then we have a full day ahead of us. I know how eager you are to get to the souk and help me buy enough food to feed forty people three times a day for the next several weeks.モ

メNot to mention watching Dad buy a whole whack of Bedouin tents,モ I say, rubbing my eyes and yawning. メItユs too bad Steve is missing out on all of this because he sure sounded enthusiastic about sleeping in a Bedouin tent.モ

メMaybe he is,モ suggests Julia. メMaybe we should try to track him down, you know, hunt for clues and all that . . .モ

メForget it,モ says Mom firmly. メNo Nancy Drew business. The best thing we can do for the Linemans is to try to carry on without their expertise. I have to admit, Iユm a bit nervous about suddenly having all these responsibilities thrust upon me, but with Godユs help, weユll do it. The best thing you can do for Steve is pray for him.モ

Dad returns when Iユm in the bathroom getting dressed.

メHowユd it go?モ I hear Mom ask.

I can imagine Dad shrugging.

メOnly two reporters showed up. But I think in this country thatユs all it takes for word to get out. Abdullah told me that one was from the Syrian national newspaper and the other was from the main Arab news network.モ

We head downstairs to the dining room for a breakfast of fresh fruits and vegetables, yoghurt, jam and bread.

Abdullah is sitting at a table with Liam and Glen. Dad introduces us. Heユs a short, stout, deeply-tanned man of about forty, casually dressed in a white shirt and beige cotton pants. While we eat our breakfast and sip our North American-style coffee, he downs a couple of espresso-size cups of the thick coffee that is popular in the Middle East.

メNow,モ he says, as we wrap up our meal. メIt is just not reasonable to have your whole group running around the souk as we buy supplies for your camping. So, with your permission, I have arranged a guide to show the students around Palmyra and then after lunch, to meet us at the camp. There it will be helpful to have many hands, yes?モ

メYes,モ agrees Dad. メWe really appreciate your help.モ

Abdullah shrugs.

メIt is necessary. Your group has become of importance to Syria. We must keep you from finding the treasure of Tadmor, yes?モ

He grins mischievously.

メAbdullah?モ says Liam leaning forward. メIs it possible there is a treasure of Tadmor? Because if so, my brother is in danger and we shouldnユt be here.モ

Abdullah shrugs again.

メIt is not for me to know,モ he says, standing up. メNow, as you say, letユs get the show on the street.モ

We glance at each other.

メShow on the road,モ says Dad.

メYes,モ says Abdullah, メthat is what I said.モ

Dad signals to all the students who are still lingering over their morning coffee or tea. In the foyer of the hotel, he explains the plan to them and with Henry in the lead, they head for the bus.

Abdullah has chartered a large van for us. Liam and Glen opt to go with us.

Itユs a good thing Abdullah is with us because I donユt think we would have ever found the tent sellerユs shop, itユs buried so deep in the souk. We are invited by the tent-maker to have some peppermint tea in his back room which Abdullah advises us to accept. With a little help from Abdullah, Dad negotiates a price for two family-size tents for us and the Linemans, as well as four gigantic ones for the students. Dad also purchases a couple of tarps, one for our eating area and one to stretch over the dig site itself.

After that weユre off to buy sleeping bags and then kitchen supplies, like pots, pans, plastic plates, forks, knives, plastic cups, and large coolers as well as some ice packs that are thankfully already frozen. We have to keep stopping back at the van to drop our stuff off. Finally, we all go with Mom to help her buy food for the next couple of days. She selects a lot of fresh fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, plus a couple of huge bags of rice and some large containers of hummus. At a bakery we buy a mammoth amount of pita bread, some regular white bread and some sticky-looking pastries. They have a wide selection of jam so Mom stocks up for breakfast. Then itユs off to a butcher to buy some lamb and beef which end up in the coolers.

Abdullah tells us that there is no fresh water at the site, so we buy some huge plastic jugs of it. We also pick up some coffee, tea and hot chocolate for the mornings.

We return to the site.

Palmyra is wonderful. If youユre into well-preserved ancient architecture and love to walk around the ruins of a once beautiful city, this is the place for you. From the van I can see Henry and many of the other students wandering around. But Abdullah doesnユt give us any time to look. We circle around the old city and he directs us down a dirt road that is barely noticeable unless youユre looking for it.

メThis is it,モ he announces as he comes to a stop.

This is it?

We look around. Itユs a pile of dirt basically. Itユs as big as a farmerユs field, but itユs all dirt. The only indications that itユs a campsite are a dozen picnic tables all grouped and some portable toilets further back. There are some additional cubicles that look like little storage sheds.

Abdullah hops out of the van and begins unloading our supplies.

メI have other commitments today,モ he says. メBut I will let your group know you are here and they can come help you. It is a short walk from the site, about a mile. Tomorrow I will be back at seven in the morning to show you the portion of the site that has been set aside for Dr. Lineman.モ

He is working rapidly and before we can even take it all in, he is making a U-turn in the dirt and we are standing in the dust.

メWell,モ says Dad, after a moment. メI guess weユd better figure out where we want everything to go.モ He picks up a large tent and begins to head towards a level part of the dirt field.

Half an hour later, some of the students start straggling in followed an hour later by the bus that carries everyoneユs luggage. By evening, we have a campsite.

Henry has helped Mom and I and Julia build a fire pit so for dinner there is roasted lamb, pita bread and hummus with pastries and fresh fruit for dessert. Itユs a meal that wouldnユt be very impressive in a restaurant but tastes great out in the open air as the sun goes down and we are all gratefully enjoying the rest. Our rest is short, however, since it is Julia and I and Mom who do the clean-up for tonight. Dad promises that by tomorrow afternoon heユll have made up a schedule that will rotate the students to help us.

Even on the hard ground, I think most of us fall asleep quickly in our sleeping bags that night.

 

Beep, beep, beep.

Itユs the alarm on Dadユs watch going off.

メWhat time is it?モ I ask sleepily.

メ5:30,モ is his crisp reply as he climbs out of the sleeping bag. He pulls a heavy sweater on over his pyjamas and slips on his boots. メIユll go get the fire going for some hot water while you ladies get dressed.モ

Mom groans as she reaches for her suitcase and pulls out a denim shirt and some khaki slacks.

Julia has to be shaken awake.

メWhat about showers?モ asks Julia. メDo they even have any here?モ

メI think theyユre those little cubicles,モ says Mom.

メThe ones that look like little tool sheds?モ I ask.

Mom nods.

 I imagine theyユll be pretty popular by the end of today considering that a day on a dig site leaves people filthy.

Itユs chilly so we dress quickly. When we get out to the eating area Dad has a fire going and is filling up a large pot with water to hang over the fire. He turns the job over to Mom and returns to the tent to get dressed.

Mom sets out a couple of big basins of water on the picnic table closest to the tents so people can wash up if they want.

Julia and I begin to put out all the breakfast stuff -- the white bread, jam, instant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate as well as some sugar and cream. Mom gets out the plates and the tin mugs.

When Dad is dressed he goes around calling out, メWake up!モ and メRise and shine!モ until sleepy-looking students start emerging from the tents. Many of them walk over to the picnic table with the water basins and once theyユve splashed some cold water on their faces look a little more alert.

Abdullah arrives halfway through breakfast. Fixing himself a cup of coffee he joins us at a picnic table.

メI will escort you to your dig site,モ he announces. メDo you have all you need or will Dr. Linemanユs absence hinder you?モ

メDr. Linemanユs absence is unfortunate,モ says Dad. メBut we have all we need to start.モ He points to four huge metal containers that have been with us since North America and that were below the bus with the luggage. They contain ropes for marking out the site, picks, trowels, brushes, buckets, levels, containers to store pottery finds, as well as medical supplies, a couple of lap-tops, cameras, a compass, a scale, measuring tapes, clipboards, pens. One of the metal containers has just enough room for two wheelbarrows.

Thereユs only one small problem that Dad is not sharing with Abdullah. The driver of our bus wasnユt hired to stay with us. This wouldnユt be a problem if Dr. Lineman were present because he has a license to drive a bus, but Dad doesnユt. He casually mentioned this to us last night and asked that we say a pray for him to the Blessed Mother because although he doubted that anyone would ask to see his license, he wanted a little divine help driving such a big vehicle. Considering the dig-site is a mile away and we have to bring all our supplies with us every time we go there, leaving the bus at the campsite is not an option.

メWhat about meals?モ Mom asks Abdullah. メShould we eat lunch at the site or here?モ

Abdullah frowns as he thinks about this.

メHere would be easier. No arrangements have been made at the site. You will probably want to leave a few people to watch the site while the rest of the group comes back here to eat.モ

Dad and Mom confer with each other about this since this means that Mom, us, and the lunch crew will have to get back a little earlier and they finally conclude that weユll have to rent a small van. Since Dad has to get the site up and running, Abdullah offers to drive Mom and Julia and I to a car rental agency after he shows Dad the perimeters of the dig site.

メWhatユs the news on the Linemans?モ asks Dad.

メThe police say they have some leads,モ says Abdullah vaguely, standing up.

The students pile up their plates and cups and Mom says once we have the van weユll come back and clean everything before we make lunch.

メDo you want to go with Abdullah or me?モ asks Dad, smiling conspiratorially at us.

メWeユll go with you,モ says Mom, bravely.

We all board the bus, everyone oblivious of the fact that this is Dadユs first time driving one. We start with a bit of a lurch and although Abdullah is ahead of us, flying down the dirt road, Dad takes it pretty slow. No one seems to notice since the students are either dozing or chatting.

Driving down a dirt road with no other traffic isnユt so much of a challenge. But when we arrive at the site and Dad has to park us in one of the many spots reserved for buses visiting Palmyra, I can see Mom silently praying for him. I add a fervent prayer of my own. Thankfully, since weユre here so early there are no other buses in the parking lot, but Dad still has to get this huge vehicle in between the lines. He selects the spot at the far end of the parking lot and starts swinging into it. Abdullah has parked his van and is watching us.

We end up on an angle, forcing Dad to put the bus into reverse to back out and straighten us out a bit. Mom continues to pray.

Going very slowly we back out and Dad tries again. This time when we pull into the spot weユre considerably straighter and Dad decides not to push his luck going for perfection. We all disembark and Henry gets some of the students to help carry all the equipment.

Abdullah leads us away from the beautiful ancient city. Again, we seem to be heading for dirt. Like our campsite, this is another field of dirt, with some portable toilets off to the side.

Abdullah points out four stakes that have been driven into the ground and Dad starts getting out the rope to mark off the site. It looks about two acres which doesnユt sound like much. But when youユre just moving slowly down, sifting through the dirt, it can keep a group busy for the summer.

After promising Dad that he will stay with us until we are safely in our rental van, Abdullah escorts Mom, Julia and me to his van.

Momユs up in the passenger seat while Julia and I each take a window seat behind. The town is waking up and we enjoy the sites as people are appearing outside shops to set up their produce and products. Abdullah drives us to a part of town thatユs more westernized, past a few hotels that could easily be dropped on a beach in Florida and not look out of place. A few car rental places are side by side. Two are still closed, but one is open.

メThey speak English very well,モ says Abdullah. メYou should not have a problem. But I will wait until I see you get into a vehicle before I drive away.モ

メThank you, Abdullah,モ says Mom, getting out. We slide open the back door and join her.

There is only one large van available so Mom takes it. As we come out, she holds the car keys up so Abdullah can see them. He gives a wave and takes off.

メWell, I feel a bit like your Dad,モ she says as we get into our van. メIユve never driven a van before.モ

メWeユll pray,モ says Julia quickly. I hear her start to whisper a Hail Mary.

Carefully, Mom backs out of the parking space. This is the easy part since the parking lot is quiet. But the main road is filling up with cars and Mom gets some honks for driving slowly. Of course, when I accidentally make eye contact with one of the honkers, itユs also a possibility that weユre getting attention for being three Western females unescorted by any male.

メOh dear,モ says Mom suddenly.

メWhat?モ I say. Iユm in the front with her.

メThis road doesnユt look familiar. Do you girls remember anything about our route to the car rental place?モ

メMom!モ says Julia. メOf course we didnユt! Youユre the one whoユs the parent!モ

メI know,モ says Mom mildly.

メHowユs Mom supposed to remember everything?モ I say to Julia.

メIf we had a map . . .モ says Mom. メI think I missed a turn back there but truthfully, all the streets look the same and it makes it hard when you canユt read the signs.モ

I look at the street signs which are written in Arabic and I realize Momユs right. Itユs a lot easier to remember a route when you know the street names.

メWell, the archaeological site must be easy to find,モ I say. メI mean, itユs the biggest tourist attraction around here. Everyone here knows where it is.モ

メThatユs a good point,モ agrees Mom. メOf course, itユs still a little tough because even if I ask for directions, getting them in Arabic wonユt help and getting them in English wonユt help much either if I canユt read the street names . . .モ

Weユre still driving down a busy main road but absolutely none of it looks familiar and none of it looks Western. There are no hotels or other touristy places that might have English-speaking employees.

メWeユll have to turn around,モ decides Mom. She puts on her signal and pulls into a little parking lot belonging to a small outdoor mall and turns us around. When weユre heading in the opposite direction, I canユt help but notice something.

メUmmm, not to add to our tribulations,モ I say slowly, メbut I think weユre being followed. When we pulled out into traffic, that black car back there made a U-turn. Now heユs about three cars behind us.モ

 


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

 

 

 

O

h great!モ say Julia, twisting around in her seat to look at the car. メWhat do we do now, Mom?!モ

メPray,モ says Mom calmly. メAnd donユt panic.モ She continues. メWeユre going to find our turn. Keep your eyes open for the road that we were on before we got onto this one. It should be on the right somewhere.モ

She slows down at each intersection so we can get a good look down each road.

メDefinitely not,モ I say as I peer down each road.

メWait!モ I say as we start to pass by one.

Quickly Mom puts on the flicker and makes a sharp right turn.

メThat restaurant looks familiar!モ I say, pointing to a little falafel shop with a green and purple awning.

メYouユre right!モ says Julia, excitedly. メAnd thereユs that funny looking sign with the camel drinking Coke. I remember that!モ

Mom breathes a sigh of relief.

メThank you, God,モ she says.

メThose guys are still following us,モ I say, looking back.

メAs long as we stay in the van weユll be OK,モ says Mom.

メMom,モ says Julia, メdo you think those guys have anything to do with Steve going missing?モ

メGod help that poor boy,モ sighs Mom. メAnd yes, I wouldnユt be surprised. Somebody doesnユt want us digging at Palmyra and it would be na夫e to think that they wonユt do further things to frighten us. Thatユs why weユre going to stick together as a family at all times. Iユm not losing either of you.モ

メMom,モ I say slowly, メhow are we going to stick together if we have to go back to the camp by ourselves to clean up the breakfast dishes and make lunch?モ

メWell,モ says Mom. メI think weユre just going to have to eat at the dig site regardless of the inconveniences. And weユre going to have to go on high-security alert. None of the students can wander off, even in small groups.モ Mom glances in the rear view mirror. メUnless Iユm mistaken, that car contains four men. Ginny, see if you can get the license plate number and then write it down.モ

The numbers are Arabic but I copy them as best I can.

After that, we drive in silence, Julia and I praying the whole way.

Silent prayer may be our strategy for the drive back, but once we reach Palmyra, Mom accelerates as we head for the corner where our dig is going on. The black car is right behind us, threatening in its closeness. Mom begins honking the horn and doesnユt let up. This gets a lot of attention.

She heads for the bus parking lot without stopping the honking. This is a good strategy because the bus parking lot is actually quite dangerous. By now there are many large buses parked which means that once we got out of our van, weユll be out of sight of our dig. The tourists that were on the buses are now out looking at the ruins, so the lot is empty of people. But Momユs honking causes our whole dig site to look up, not to mention some of the tourists.

Dad immediately realizes the problem and along with the Lineman brothers and several of the college students, begins running toward the parking lot as we pull in.

The black car makes a quick U-turn and before weユve even had time to get out of the van is flying down the dirt road that leads to our campsite.

メQuickly!モ says Dad, grabbing the van keys from Mom. We all tumble back into the van, including the Lineman brothers and the three male students. There arenユt enough seats but some of us just plunk ourselves down on the floor and weユre off, chasing after the black car.

メThis is outrageous,モ Dad is saying, almost to himself. メWhat on earth are we doing to bug these people?モ

The black car had a head start so by the time we get back to camp, the occupants of the car are already running around our campsite, overturning tables. Theyユre about to start slashing our tents with knives when they see us come careening around the corner. Dad doesnユt even slow down. We hurtle off the road and Dad goes flying right at the men, forcing them to scatter and run to their car. We barely avoid running into one of our own tents, but Dad slows down enough to turn the van around, drive around our kitchen area and continue to chase the men who by now are in their car and driving back towards the ruins of Palmyra.

メDid anyone get a license plate number?モ Dad asks.

メGinny did earlier,モ says Mom who is in the front seat.

メGood,モ says Dad.

We chase the car back to the ruins. They take a sharp left and circle around the ruins to head off back towards the town. We take a right turn and head back to the dig site where the college students have all stopped their work to wait for our return.

メWell, all secrets are out,モ says Dad as we step out of the van. メFirst thing to do is to call Abdullah and after that we have to work out a battle plan.モ

 

メStolen,モ says Abdullah, five hours later in our camp. メIt seems these young men stole a car and then decided to be mischievous.モ

Dad just stares at him.

メYouユre telling me they arbitrarily selected my wife and daughters as a target and then when that failed, they just happened to know where our camp was so they could go and attempt to shred it to pieces?モ

Abdullah shrugs.

メYour wife and daughters are obviously not Syrian. They would stand out. Maybe these men are extremists who have a dislike of Western ways. It is impossible to say.モ

Our description of the carユs occupants -- four young Arab men dressed in t-shirts and blue jeans -- had hardly impressed Abdullah.

メAre we in danger?モ asks Dad. メWeユre rather isolated out here.モ

メWell, thereユs danger and then thereユs danger,モ says Abdullah vaguely.

メShould we post guards?モ asks Dad.

Abdullah exhales.

メPerhaps. What harm could it do?モ

メThe young men might have friends,モ says Mom. メWho knows how many could show up next time? Plus, they have knives. What do we have to defend ourselves?ユ

Dad nods.

メBuckets and picks,モ he says grimly.

Abdullah acknowledges this inequality with a nod.

メNot to mention that I donユt want to go on trial for murdering someone,モ continues Dad. メI hate to be cynical, but the guy who murders me may get a lot more lenient sentence than I would for killing him.モ

Abdullah shrugs.

メPerhaps. You are Western.モ

He doesnユt elaborate.

メThank you,モ says Dad, standing up, the signal that our meeting with Abdullah is over. Abdullah looks surprised.

メWell,モ he says, メI will come to your site tomorrow and make sure you are OK.モ

メFine, fine,モ says Dad.

Abdullah heads for his van.

メOK,モ Dad calls out to everyone once Abdullah has driven away. メPack it up! Itユs the hotel for us tonight. All our camp supplies go in the van. Our personal stuff back in the bottom of the bus.モ

Two hours later weユre all in our hotel rooms.

 メThis is going to cost a fortune,モ says Dad, collapsing into a chair and holding his head. メFirst we buy all the camping equipment, now weユre forced into a hotel. If I didnユt have a credit card, we would have been forced to sit in the middle of the desert and wait for some anti-Western Arabs to slaughter us all.モ

メYou did the right thing,モ says Mom rubbing his shoulders. メNow I suggest we go to bed. Itユs eleven oユclock and I presume weユre going to be up bright and early.モ

Dad nods wearily. He starts going through his bags and pulls out his lap-top.

メI for one appreciate the fact that I had a shower in a real bathtub tonight,モ says Julia climbing into the bed Iユm already in. メI never had to take one in those yucky little boxes.モ

メWhat are you doing, honey?モ Mom asks Dad as he plugs in his computer and fires it up.

メEnoughユs enough,モ says Dad. メIt was bad enough that we let them get away with it when Steve went missing. Now my wife and daughters have become targets and our campsite is under siege. Iユm not waiting for anything worse to happen.モ

メWhat are you going to do?モ asks Mom as Dad opens up his e-mail and begins to type.

メKen is going to hear all about this,モ says Dad absently. メDr. Lineman hasnユt given me permission to release all this info to the world at large but Ken can talk to some of our fellow archaeologists and Middle Eastern experts who will be discreet. Is there a treasure of Tadmor? Is there any reason that I should be suspicious of the Syrians? Why do they want us out of here? What groups could possibly abduct an archaeologistユs son?モ He pauses to think. メGinny?モ

メUh huh?モ I say sleepily.

メWhereユd you put that license plate number? I donユt buy Abdullahユs stolen car story. Iユm passing it onto Ken to see what he can do with it.モ

メIn my purse,モ I say pointing to the dresser. メIn the side pocket.モ

メThanks,モ says Dad, continuing to type furiously.

I drift off to sleep before heユs done.

 

Dadユs alarm is beeping at five-thirty. Just in case we sleep through that, our phone rings and all along the hallway we can hear the phone ringing in other rooms. Our wake-up call.

With a light breakfast included with our rooms, all Mom and I and Julia have to worry about is lunch at the site. We still have most of our supplies and being in a hotel, Mom has been able to fill up the coolers with ice to keep the perishables fresh and the water cold.

After a quick breakfast of fresh fruits, cucumbers, tomatoes, pita bread and some garlicky butter, we all gather at the bus with our supplies for the short drive to the dig site. When we arrive at the site, Dad doesnユt let anyone off the bus until he explains the situation to everyone.

メBy now, I think you realize that we have become a target of some anti-Western sentiment. So from now on we are going to stick together in large groups. Never, ever be alone and let me know right away if anything makes you suspicious or uncomfortable.モ

Thereユs probably been a lot of talk going on among the students because none of them seem surprised.

メHenry and I and some volunteers are going to go to our old campsite and grab the picnic tables so we have something to sit on for lunch. So I ask that you each start working in your locus and weユll be back shortly.モ

Mom, Julia and I struggle off the bus with the water coolers and cups. Dad gives Mom a quick kiss and a reassuring hug before he and about ten students head off in the bus.

Mom doesnユt have to ask. We pray.

All the student know where to go. There is one dilapidated picnic table so with our help, Mom gets the ice water up on it so the students can help themselves. Itユs hard not to keep surveying the area, hoping that Dad will get back soon and that the men in the black car wonユt show up. We hear an engine before we see a car. We look at each other nervously.

But itユs Abdullah who appears in his van.

メHowdy, howdy,モ he says, coming over to join us at the picnic table. メHow are we this morning?モ

He is concerned but seems to be trying to sound cheerful.

メFine,モ says Mom.

メYou slept well? No more nasty visitors, I hope?モ

メNo, none.モ Mom is leaving it up to Dad to tell Abdullah that weユre no longer at the campsite.

メWell, that is good news.モ

Abdullah looks around.

メYour husband is available?モ

メHe should be back shortly,モ says Mom, pushing hair off her face and propping her sunglasses on her head to hold it in place. メHe just had an errand . . . Ah, here he is.モ

Sure enough, the bus is pulling up and Abdullahユs jaw drops as he sees it occupied by the students and the picnic tables. The picnic tables are all on their side so that they fit down the middle aisle. The students hop out and begin unloading them and carrying them to where weユre seated.

Abdullah continues to stare.

メGood morning,モ says Dad crisply to Abdullah as he and Henry plop a table down beside us. He then joins us at our table. メWe have no further need of the campsite unless your government is willing to post a substantial number of soldiers around us to keep us safe from any unpleasant encounters with some youthful extremists.モ

メYou are in a hotel?モ asks Abdullah.

メYes,モ says Dad. メTo be honest, we canユt really afford it but I have plans to raise some extra funds.モ

メRaise extra funds?モ says Abdullah nervously.

メYes,モ says Dad. メCurrently this is a very low-profile dig. Only a few people in the academic world are aware that weユre even here. I plan to change that. My brother can put together a website and we can update it daily to let people know what weユre doing here. The opposition weユve faced will guarantee public interest . . .モ

メHmmmm,モ Abdullah is thinking this over. メI do not think this is a good idea . . .モ

メI have no choice,モ says Dad. メIユm running low on money through no fault of my own. The head of this dig is stuck in Damascus trying to get his son back. I have a bunch of useless camping gear. Iユm going to have to increase the level of security on this whole dig and first I need to raise some more money.モ

メI will talk to my people,モ says Abdullah, rising. メI must talk to my people before you do anything. Perhaps we can work out something . . .モ

Dad grins as Abdullah gets in his van and drives away.

メPerhaps we can.モ

Abdullah looks back and catches Dad smiling. Abdullah points at him and shakes his finger, as if to say, I caught you. But he is grinning too.

Dad gives Mom, Julia and I our own locus to work in which basically just means digging away at dirt like a kid in a sandbox. There are four student supervisors underneath Dad -- Henry, two other guys, and the girl who is in charge of our area whose name is Leah. She comes by occasionally to make sure weユre OK. She has a clipboard and all the student supervisors are responsible for making constant measurements as to how far down weユve dug. If we come to any shards of pottery, we call her and she and Dad come over with a brush and carefully expose as much of it as they can without actually removing it. Then they take measurements and photos and then finally the piece of pottery is extracted and taken to a picnic table that is being used as a work station.

Before we know it, itユs time to start working on lunch. Because weユre up so early, lunch is at 11:00. We lay the food out buffet-style and the students are happy to take a break. The sun is beating down on us but thankfully there is a tarp overhead to keep us from dying of sunstroke. On digs like this, nobody needs anything to drink but ice water, itユs just so wonderful to be drinking something cold.

Abdullah is back at 1:50. We stop working at 2:00 so Mom, Julia and I get to hear parts of the conversation because weユre packing up the lunch area.

メMy government is willing to make a modest contribution to offset your hotel expenses,モ Abdullah is saying to Dad. メThey feel that would be more discreet than posting guards around your campsite. The hotel has security and it is improbable anyone would be comfortable attacking you in such a public area. But this contribution is conditional upon you continuing this dig in a low-key manner.モ

メI have no problem with that,モ says Dad. メBut Iユm concerned about our safety here on the dig as well.モ

メThat is not a problem,モ says Abdullah. メThere is already security at Palmyra. A few more soldiers will be added and they will keep an eye on you without it seeming too obvious.モ

メWell, thatユs fine for now,モ says Dad.

Abdullah looks relieved.

The students are packing up their tools and heading for the bus so Abdullah takes that as his cue to leave.

メBut Andy,モ says Mom, as soon as Abdullah is out of hearing range. メDo you think the hotel is a safe option? Terrorists have no problem bombing hotels.モ

メIt only gives the illusion of safety,モ agrees Dad. メUltimately our safety is in the hands of God.モ He stands up and begins to help us carry the water coolers and the food stuff to the bus.

 

Well, I have no complaints about being able to take a shower in a real bathroom and being able to relax in an air-conditioned hotel. None of the students are complaining although theyユre not too thrilled about the メtravel in a large groupモ rule. A lot of them just want to be able to freely roam around the hotel and go swimming in the pool without having to find other people to do it with. But Dad is firm and at dinner he stresses to them the importance of safety first.

As for our family, we donユt do anything without one another. Since Dad wants to spend the afternoon on the computer e-mailing Uncle Ken, the only part of the hotel we see is the inside of our room. All the television is in Arabic so thereユs not much to do but read or take a nap.

For dinner, we go downstairs to the dining room. Our group is scheduled for an early dinner since we have to get up so early. Tonight the meal is being advertised as メAmerican Style.モ There are hamburgers, French fries and onion rings. The only thing thatユs unusual about it is the condiments. Itユs not the usual ketchup, mustard, and relish, but an assortment of exotic sauces, a cucumber salad, and a large bowl of something that looks like pesto.

After all the excitement of the last couple of days, our family just wants to sleep after dinner.

 

Dad has some news in the morning.

Uncle Ken has e-mailed Dad. He is still working on the license plate number but heユs talked to a Syriologist. There have always been rumours of a treasure at Tadmor, but since itユs not associated with Solomon, Dr. Lineman probably hasnユt heard about it. The treasure belonged to a silk merchant who probably died around 50 A.D. in Palmyra. Palmyra was the last major stopover on the Silk Road just before the route reached the Mediterranean. No one would have ever suspected there might be a treasure buried somewhere in Palmyra except for an ancient letter that was said to be found in Palmyra during the Middle Ages and preserved in a small private collection of antiquities that were eventually donated by a wealthy Greek family to the National Museum in Damascus. Itユs not on display but scholars can study it in the museumユs archives.

The letter is written from Palmyra to the silk merchantユs wife and in it he apologizes for his delay in returning home but says that he has found something so wonderful while he was in Jerusalem selling his silk that he canユt wait to share it with her. He mentions how he longs to be back home with her in Greece but the fact that the letter was found in Palmyra suggests that it never got sent and that something probably happened to the merchant.

メThe ヤtreasure of Tadmorユ, as itユs been called,モ says Dad, メis probably more mythical than realistic. The merchant could have found a beautiful vase for his wife that has long since broken into a thousand pieces, or it could have been some special silk pattern that again, would have dissolved into the dust. But itユs interesting, isnユt it?モ

We all agree. It fascinates me that Steveユs crazy fantasy of treasure at Tadmor is actually true.

メUncle Ken suggests that we visit the National Museum in Damascus if we have a chance. Thereユs some Chinese silk there thatユs been dated to 100 A.D. found here in Palmyra in a tomb. Could be interesting.モ

He quickly scans the e-mail.

メOn a more up-to-date topic, Uncle Ken has provided me with the names of a few of the groups that might target an archaeological dig. These are groups that have previously made an issue of foreigners ヤplundering the treasures of Syriaユ. Not every nationalist organization concerns itself with archaeology. Well, I guess thatユs about it. Weユd better get going.モ

Julia and I are already dressed. Mom is in the bathroom and as soon as sheユs out, we head down to the dining room for a continental-style breakfast. There is a lot of pita bread and a wide assortment of jams and other spreads. The Nutella is popular among the students. Mom tries what looks like a sesame paste and declares it メunusual but pleasant.モ Julia and I just stick with jam.

After that, we head out for the bus in the parking lot. As weユre boarding the bus, we hear screams. Next thing I know, Dad grabs my arm and hurls me into the bus. At first I think itユs for my own safety, but itユs also so that he can get back out and see whatユs happening.

Mom, Julia and I, as well as the few other students that are already on the bus, rush to the back to see whatユs going on.

The screams continue. They are coming from some of the female university students. Now there is yelling coming from some of the male university students.

メOh dear God!モ Mom blurts out. メTheyユre covered in blood!モ


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

 

 

 

A

t least four of the students are covered in something red.

And then I see my Dad running right at them!

Donユt Dad! I want to yell. Get under the bus! Hide!

メStay calm!モ heユs yelling. メItユs OK!モ

We hear the squeal of tires and rush to the other side of the bus in time to see a black car driving away. There are at least two guns hanging out of the window, no longer pointed at the students but menacing nonetheless. Our group is still screaming and yelling and panicking. Many students are stumbling onto the bus, some hysterical and crying.

メItユs OK! Itユs OK!モ Dad is yelling. メStay calm!モ

Heユs assisting the students who have been shot, all who are miraculously still standing.

メItユs OK!モ yells Dad. メItユs just paint!モ

Paint?

Paint. This gets some peopleユs attention and they calm down a little bit.

メItユs red paint!モ Dad yells. メNobodyユs going to die!モ

Our group settles down somewhat and although everybody is jittery, Dad is able to communicate without yelling.

メBack into the hotel everyone!モ Dad calls out. メThese guys need a shower and I need to make some phone calls. Please stick together.モ

メSo much for hotel security,モ says Dad grimly to us as we troop back into the hotel. Very few people are up this early so only the desk clerk, a few waiters and a businessman in the dining room witness the spectacle of the return of our group led by several of the students dripping red paint as they walk.

メPlease! Please! What is this?モ The desk clerk, a young Arab man, rushes forward, clearly distressed by the paint on the carpet.

メWe were attacked in the parking lot,モ says Dad, heading straight for the front desk. メI need to use the phone.モ

メAttacked?モ The man looks horrified. メYou were attacked?!モ

メBunch of hooligans with guns. Thankfully full of paint, not bullets.モ Pulling out his wallet and consulting a piece of paper, Dad dials a number on the phone at the front desk. He turns his back to the students who have remained in the lobby so we canユt hear most of the call, but we gather itユs to Abdullah and that Dad wants some instant action.

By the time the students covered in paint are done taking their showers, Abdullah is already here, looking serious, frequently making phone calls, and nodding as he listens to Dad.

メBottom line is,モ says Dad, メif those guns had been real, we would have had at least six dead people. This is too serious. We didnユt know those guns werenユt real until they fired. Hotel security doesnユt cut it. Either we get 24-hour protection from the Syrian army or I take this story to the Western press and get a website up and running to chronicle our activities.モ

メDone,モ agrees Abdullah.

メOh, and another thing. Those guys were the same ones who harassed my wife and daughters. Theyユre still driving around in that stolen car.モ Dad gives Abdullah an ironic and grim smile. メSeems to me that theyユre awfully foolish to keep driving around in a stolen car, eh?モ

メUh, yes,モ says Abdullah looking slightly embarrassed. メVery foolish indeed.モ

メSo then,モ says Dad. メHow long till we get our soldiers?モ

Abdullah makes a quick phone call, speaking in Arabic, and then replies in English.

メHalf an hour,モ he says.

メVery good,モ says Dad. メWeユll just wait here then. They can escort us to the site.モ

メOf course,モ says Abdullah. メBe assured, this was just a one-time incident. It will not happen again.モ

メGood,モ says Dad. メHalf an hour!モ he calls out to the students in the lobby. メHave a coffee, if you like.モ Since the dining room is adjacent to the lobby, itユs a safe location if we want to remain together as a group.

When two jeeploads of soldiers show up at the front of the hotel, it is late enough and there are enough people around for it to cause quite a stir. Abdullah seems eager to minimize the publicity. He quickly starts directing the students to head out for the bus, while at the same time waving at the soldiers and calling out in Arabic. The soldiers respond by leaping out of their vehicles and surrounding our group as we board the bus. And then they are back into their jeeps to escort us to the dig site. Itユs all quite dramatic but Dad seems pleased.

When we arrive at the dig site, the soldiers are out of the jeeps once again, surrounding the bus as we make our way to the site. Once weユve settled in, they establish themselves around the perimeters. They look pretty sharp.

メI will be back later,モ Abdullah promises Dad. メThere is much to do. Much is vexing about this situation.モ He shakes his head. メWe must get to the bottom of all this.モ

Dad nods his head pleasantly and Abdullah heads for his van. As soon as Abdullah has rounded the corner, the soldiers relax and as the morning continues, they call out to each other in Arabic, laughing and joking, some even sit down and have a cigarette. Nonetheless, they remain at their posts and the guns at their side are an intimidating factor for anyone who might want to harass us.

While Mom, Julia and I are preparing lunch, Julia asks the question Iユm wondering.

メCan we trust them?モ she whispers to Mom. メI mean, what if theyユre just like the guys who chased us who donユt like us?モ

メNo we canユt trust them,モ Mom says quietly. メWe put our trust in God. Heユs our shield and defender. Dad puts his faith in God but Dadユs also exasperated and has had enough of all these shenanigans. Plus, heユs got to do all the earthly things to protect the students in case one of them decides to sue the university if they get hurt.モ

メMom?モ says Julia. メWhy didnユt God protect Steve?モ

メThatユs a good question,モ says Mom. メBut I think God is protecting Steve. I donユt have all the answers about that one. I know Dr. Lineman is a Christian . . .モ

メSteve isnユt,モ I say. メPlus, he went off voluntarily. Itユs not exactly a case of someone with a whole bunch of faith suddenly being snatched out of our group.モ

メWell, Ginny brings up some good points,モ says Mom. メFirst of all, God does want us to be obedient to our parents when weユre young and Steve definitely didnユt do that. Secondly, God promises protection to the ones who put their trust in him and who make him their dwelling place. In Steveユs case, I imagine the faith of his parents will pull him through this trial. Unfortunately, Steveユs actions have caused a lot of anxiety for his parents.モ

Itユs time for the students to come and eat. We take over some plates of food to the soldiers.

メShukran,モ they say. Thank you.

メAfwan,モ we say, which hopefully means, your welcome.

The topic at lunchtime is, of course, the morningユs attack. All the students are talking about it, but at our table we eat quietly. Dad isnユt one for speculation and the Lineman brothers, who are sharing our table, donユt seem to want to talk.

In the afternoon, one of the loci finds an intact water jug so that causes a bit of a stir. Even the soldiers seem interested, watching from a distance. Abdullah shows up and spends a lot of time talking this find over with Dad, asking him things like what period it likely comes from and is it native pottery or a foreign import?

メI can only give a guess at this point,モ says Dad musing out loud, メbut it looks foreign. To me it looks like an Israelite piece. So the level weユre at is probably around the first-century. Dr. Lineman will be the one to ask. Definitely not Solomonic though. Itユs too far up. Actually, Iユm a bit surprised to find something that looks like an Israelite piece of pottery so high up considering that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem was taken by the Romans and the Israelite culture suffered enormously.モ

メI do not understand . . .モ says Abdullah.

メWell, I thought we were higher up. Early third or late second-century from what I was told. I didnユt realize weユd got down to a level where weユd find an Israelite piece. By the late first-century, Israel had been destroyed by the Romans and the Jews scattered so I thought weユd be digging for a little while before we found any of their artefacts.モ

メHmmm,モ says Abdullah, absorbing this and walking off thoughtfully. He makes the rounds, talking to the soldiers in Arabic and glancing over occasionally at the digging.

メHeユs concerned,モ says Dad crouching down and quietly talking to us as we work in our square. メBy previous agreement, anything found here belongs to the Syrian government so maybe heユs concerned that weユre going to try to take off with one of the countryユs antiquities.モ

Dad is staring off into space.

メThereユs something else on your mind,モ says Mom.

メItユs this treasure of Tadmor business. If weユre at the level where we can find an Israelite piece then weユre at the level where we could find something pertaining to that treasure. I really need to talk to Dr. Lineman because he was under the impression we were starting out in the third-century and wouldnユt get to that layer until later this summer.モ

Archaeological digs can go on for years, depending on the funding. Dr. Lineman has funding for five years and was hoping to reach the Solomonic level by the end of it.

メBut what can he do?モ asks Mom. メHis son is his first priority right now.モ

メOf course,モ says Dad straightening up. メBut he needs to know.モ

By the end of the day, the water jug is safely extracted from the ground and packed away after all the measurements are taken. Abdullah has not left and does seem concerned about where the water jug will be stored.

メIn the hotel safe,モ says Dad. メI canユt turn it over to the government until Dr. Lineman has had a chance to examine it. Itユs only fair to him.モ

メOf course, of course,モ says Abdullah quickly.

メAre you in contact with Dr. Lineman?モ asks Dad.

メWell, yes,モ says Abdullah.

メI need to confer with him about some archaeological matters,モ says Dad. メDo you have a phone number I can reach him at?モ

メI will be happy to have him phone the hotel,モ says Abdullah.

メGood enough,モ says Dad.

The soldiers escort us back to the hotel and then take up their posts on the third floor where our rooms are. The hotel doesnユt seem thrilled with this but they begrudgingly supply chairs for them to sit on. There are roughly two soldiers for every 10 students so Dad says that if any group of ten people want to leave the third floor they can have two soldiers escort them. A group of about ten decide they want to go swimming in the hotel pool.

As is usual on a dig, after taking showers, Dad is meeting with Henry and the other student leaders for a run-down of the dayユs discoveries and plans for tomorrow. They meet in our room. Normally, Mom and I and Julia might go out while this goes on but this time we stay since weユd need to get seven more people in order to go anywhere.

As the meetingユs wrapping up, Dr. Lineman calls. Dad catches him up on all thatユs been happening. They discuss at length the idea that weユve already dug down to the early to middle first-century. The phone call ends on a hopeful note.

メThe police have reason to believe theyユll be finding Steve soon,モ says Dad when he gets off the phone. メItユs pretty obvious to them that the people who have been harassing us probably took Steve and with a license plate number itユs only a matter of time now.モ

メWell, thatユs some good news,モ says Henry.

メIユm going to go tell Liam and Glen,モ says Dad as he opens the door for the students to file out. Heユs the last person to exit and he leaves the door slightly open, signifying that heユll be back in a few minutes.

After the students leave and once theyユre all back in their rooms, the hall is quiet.

Suddenly, we hear laughing. Itユs the soldiers out in the hallway. They were obviously in the middle of a conversation that they broke off when Dad and the students came out of our room. But now itユs resuming. Though theyユre talking quickly, I decide that for fun Iユm going to scribble down what theyユre saying and then try to decode it with our Arabic/English conversational phrase book. Obviously I just have to write the words down as they sound to me.

メFel al massa,モ I write down.

メMafeesh mushkila,モ says one guy a couple of times.

Theyユre talking fast but I manage to scribble a few more words.

メHona . . . Kulna . . . Maabath . . . Il matar . . . Inshaallahモ

The last phrase is said several times and is something I remember from our conversational phrase book. It means if God is willing.

Thatユs all I get down before Dad returns.

メWell, letユs go eat,モ he says. メDinner starts in five minutes.モ

 

When we get back to our room I want to try to translate what the soldiers were saying. Itユs slow going because I recorded the words as they sounded to me, not the way theyユre actually spelled.

Julia has asked a waiter for two large Styrofoam cups full of hot water and back in the room she makes us up some hot chocolate with the powder we bought at the souk. She joins me at the table with a magazine while Dad and Mom quietly do a Bible study on their bed.

Fel al massa turns out to be tonight. Mafeesh mushkila takes me a little bit longer but eventually I conclude that it means no problem. Hona is easy. It means here. I decide kulna has to be all of us and logically maabath is probably together since it sounds like theyユre planning something for tonight for all of them to do together. I already know that Inshaalah means God willing so I move on to the last phrase, il matar. I flip through the conversational Arabic book until I come across the most likely candidate. The airport. Weird. But thatユs the only thing that comes close to sounding like il matar. It sounds like for some reason, the soldiers are all planning to go to the airport together, God willing.

I laugh to myself.

They were probably talking about soccer scores and my attempt to understand their Arabic has resulted in a completely different conversation.

Oh well. I put away my paper and my book and decide to go to bed.

 

A loud knock startles us as weユre falling asleep.

Dad gets up to see whoユs at the door. Peeking through the peep-hole, he swings open the door for Thomas, one of the student leaders.

メSorry to bother you Dr. Kent,モ he says as Dad ushers him into our room, making it kind of awkward since the rest of us are in bed. But Thomas doesnユt seem to notice.

メThatユs alright,モ says Dad. メWhatユs the problem, Thomas?モ

メIユm worried about Henry. I woke up in the night and he wasnユt in his bed. I waited fifteen minutes in case he just went out to buy a can of pop or some chips from the machine but heユs not back yet . . .モ

Dad immediately heads for the phone. Quickly, he dials a number.

メAbdullah?モ he says. メItユs Andy Kent. We have a problem. My right hand man has gone missing. You will? Good. OK . . . OK.モ

メHeユll be right over,モ says Dad when he hangs up. メNow Iユm going out and talking to those soldiers. Hopefully theyユll understand my feeble Arabic . . .モ Heユs throwing on his bathrobe as he speaks.

メWell, thatユs just it,モ says Thomas. メThe soldiers donユt know anything. I asked them and they say he never left our room.モ

メBut thatユs baloney,モ says Dad. Dad goes over to the window and looks out. メHe couldnユt have gone out the window because there are no balconies and itユs a sheer drop to the ground. . . .モ

メDad,モ I say suddenly. メWhat time do the soldiers rotate?モ

メNine, I think. The shifts are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Why?モ

メSo the guys who were on duty while we were having our meeting this afternoon just got off now . . .モ I say out loud as Iユm thinking this through. メDad, I think those soldiers were planning something this afternoon. They were talking about going to the airport. I missed most of what they were saying . . .モ

メLetユs go,モ says Dad interrupting. Heユs grabbed his wallet and his keys and heユs heading for the door, still in his bathrobe.

メShouldnユt we get dressed?モ asks Mom.

メWe may not have a moment to spare,モ says Dad grimly.

We grab our bathrobes on our way out. Thomas stands there looking kind of stunned.

メTell Abdullah we went to the airport,モ Dad calls over his shoulder. メAnd stay on your toes. I think it would be best if you wake everyone up and stay in one room until we get back.モ

Dad ignores the soldiers. Flabbergasted, the soldiers stare at us in our pyjamas as Dad impatiently bypasses the slow elevator for the stairs. The night clerk in the lobby doesnユt seem to know what to say either as we march out into the cool night air and head for the van.

メThanks for taking us with you,モ I say as soon as weユre in the van and heading down a quiet road. メ

Dad smiles grimly.

メIユm not letting you guys out of my sight. So where I go, you go. But if it gets dangerous, we all leave. Iユm not risking your lives. But I feel a responsibility to try to get Henry back.モ

Mom suggests we pray so Dad says a prayer for protection  while weユre driving. The airport is quiet when we arrive. I guess airlines donユt schedule flights to leave in the middle of the night. We park right outside of the main building and ignore the parking meters.

When we step out of the van I am very self-conscious of the fact that we are all still in our pyjamas. Itユs like a bad dream except that I know Iユm not going to wake up. But Dad is too busy striding towards the terminal for much reflection on the matter.

Inside the terminal, Dad ignores the very curious security guards scattered around the building.

メOf course, there are no official flights going out at this hour,モ he says, almost to himself. メItユs possible though that they already managed to get him aboard a small plane and just took off in it regardless. But if they didnユt, I wonder where they might keep him in the meantime . . .モ

メHow do you think theyユre going to persuade him to get on a plane?モ asks Mom.

メI have no clue,モ says Dad looking all around. メBut I have a strong hunch that if Ginny heard them talking about the airport, heユs probably here somewhere.モ

メI once heard about a guy who shipped himself from, like, Indiana to Texas,モ offers Julia. メHe did it in a wooden box . . .モ

Dad snaps his fingers.

メYou might have something there, Julia! Letユs check out the cargo section.モ

メAndy, that might be off- limits,モ says Mom.

メNot if we have Abdullah with us.モ Dad grins as Abdullah hurries in through the sliding glass doors.

メDr. Anderson! Dr. Anderson!モ Abdullah is breathless and so flustered that heユs calling Dad by his first name. He looks as if he has a lot more to say except that Dad doesnユt let him.

メAbdullah! Weユre glad to see you!モ Dad gives him a hearty thump on the back. メWe need access to the cargo section of the airport immediately.モ

メCargo section?モ Abdullah sounds as if his English doesnユt cover this concept.

メWhere they ship boxes instead of people,モ explains Dad.

メAh,モ says Abdullah, enlightened. メCargo section. But what is all this talk of someone going missing and why are all your students hiding in one hotel room too scared to come out even with soldiers to protect them?モ

メAbdullah,モ says Dad solemnly. メWe have every reason to believe that it was the soldiers who took Henry and brought him here and if he isnユt already gone, I intend to get him back before any harm comes to him.モ

Abdullah looks extremely distressed and begins to mutter to himself in Arabic.

メNow, my guess is that Henry has probably been confined to a box and is probably going to be shipped out in the morning.モ

メI will talk to the guards,モ says Abdullah. メFirst, I must see if anyone has been here.モ

 We watch as Abdullah goes over to one of the stony-faced guards and begins to talk. At first the man doesnユt seem interested in sharing any information, but Abdullah pulls out a badge, presumably one that proves heユs with the government, and the man begins to open up to him. He even gets animated, gesturing and pointing as he talks.

メHe says no flights have gone out tonight. However, several men did come in with a large box that they said was supposed to go out on the early morning flight to Damascus.モ Abdullah checks his watch. メThis will be in two hours . . .モ

メWhereユs the box?モ Dad interrupts.

メCome,モ says Abdullah as he begins to walk. メThe guard said that all cargo is kept in a room over here.モ Abdullah is heading for a door.

The door is not locked so with the guards all watching us from their posts, Abdullah opens it and we peer inside. The room is the size of a walk-in closet, with shelves on either side, but in the middle of it is a large wooden box that has been nailed shut.

メWe need something to open the thing,モ says Dad, rushing over to it.

Abdullah calls out something in Arabic and the guard he talked to hurries off. Soon heユs back with a crowbar.

Eagerly Dad takes it and begins prying open the box.

Even though weユre all expecting it, itユs still quite a shock to see Henry curled up inside the box. He looks asleep, although when Dad leans into the box to gently sit him up, heユs so limp itユs clear that his sleep is not natural.

メDrugged,モ says Dad grimly. メBut at least heユs still alive.モ

Abdullah is rapidly talking to himself in Arabic and looking very upset. After awhile, he switches over to English.

メIt is very distressing, Dr. Kent. Most distressing! That the men we chose to protect you have done this . . .モ

メWell,モ says Dad, who with Momユs help, is lifting Henry out of the box and getting him out of the closet, メof course, youユll want to investigate the whole thing. But theyユre the strongest candidates for doing this.モ

メOh, it is without a doubt the soldiers who were supposed to be protecting you who did this,モ says Abdullah, rubbing his hands together in anxiety. メI asked the guard here and he said that although it is not permitted to leave things to be stored without any kind of authorization, he allowed it because the men were wearing army uniforms.モ



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

 

 

 

S

teve is back!

The box that contained Henry in it had a Damascus address on it and when the police investigated the house that Henry was going to be sent to, they found Steve locked in an upstairs room.

Needless to say, his family is thrilled. Now the Linemans are back with the group here in Palmyra, although Dr. and Mrs. Lineman seem a little bit dazed by all the negative events that have plagued this dig. Steve, however, has bounced right back. Heユs telling stories about how he was waited on hand and foot by pretty Arab girls and how heユs thinking of changing his religion to Islam since upon death, Muslim men are said to inherit a harem of young women in Paradise. Glen, however, has told Julia that the reality is that it was a grandmotherly-type of Arab woman who took care of Steve during his captivity.

After spending a night in the hospital recovering from the drugs his captors injected into him, Henry is back on the job as Dr. Linemanユs assistant. Unlike Steve, he doesnユt embellish his story. He left his room to go buy a pop from the vending machine and while he was dropping his coins in the machine someone grabbed him from behind. After that, he doesnユt remember anything until he woke up in a hospital bed.

Itユs been concluded that Henry wasnユt a specific target. Any student would have done. Hearing this, all the students are terrified, naturally. Especially since nobodyユs actually been arrested. The house Steve was held in was, except for Steve, empty at the time of the raid. Even the grandmother must have been out at the market.

Not surprisingly, most of the soldiers assigned to protect us on that one shift have disappeared, although at least the government knows who to look for.

At first Dr. Lineman wanted to pack everything up and go home. But Abdullah, terrified no doubt of unwanted publicity, convinced him that this time around the soldiers assigned to protect us would be of a higher calibre, not just out of the general ranks and susceptible to their own whims and probably bribery.

So, for the moment, things are back to normal. Weユre at the dig site. Dad and Dr. Lineman are pondering how we can already be at the first-century level. Today, a small partial oil lamp was discovered, confirming that weユre digging somewhere between 100 B.C. and 70 A.D.

Some wives of archaeologists are archaeologists themselves and wouldnユt dream of doing domestic chores at a dig site, but Mrs. Lineman seems content to join us in the meal duties. She and Mom talk about how good it is to have Steve back and how we have to constantly be on our toes because nobody wants to lose their children. I have a feeling that Dr. and Mrs. Lineman suffered far more than Steve throughout this ordeal. (Although Steve claims that his captors would tie him to a chair and beat his feet with palm branches to try to get information out of him. Glen says, however, that the doctor, who examined Steve after he was rescued, said that he showed no signs of being abused by his captors.)

One thing has changed. The soldiers guarding us are not the relaxed, joking, smoking, guys from before. These ones are tight-lipped and unsmiling as they stand and grimly survey our site and the surrounding area. Unlike the other soldiers, they donユt accept meals from us while on the job. They take shifts in order to eat and they bring their own food. Dr. Lineman says theyユre more like the Marines, Syriaユs finest men.

Juliaユs decided that she has a crush on one of them although sheユs still keeping her options open with Glen. When Steve was missing it seemed improper to intrude on Liam and Glenユs grief, but now that heユs back, Glen and Julia are eating lunch together and laughing and talking as they work. Since theyユre the kids of the archaeologists, theyユve managed to swing it so they work together and Dr. Lineman just automatically put me and Steve in the locus beside them. Liam is back to hanging around with the university students.

Steve seems to think that itユs important to justify his adventure with me.

メThereユs definitely a conspiracy here in Syria,モ he says as weユre digging away. メOf course, I wouldnユt have known this except that I allowed myself to fall into enemy hands in order to get an inside impression of whatユs going on.モ

Iユm tempted to tell him that his parents were worried sick but I decide to bite my tongue. I figure that under all that bravado he feels pretty guilty about causing them so much grief.

メSo whatユs going on?モ I ask lightly. I have to admit, on the plane it crossed my mind that since he was the one guy close in age to me I might end up liking him by the end of the summer. But somethingユs gone sour for me. Maybe itユs his complete lack of humility or maybe itユs just the presence of all those dark-haired, deeply tanned men in their crisp uniforms surrounding our dig site. In the presence of such men, guys like Steve seem kind of wimpy.

メWell, thereユs a definite anti-Western sentiment,モ he says as he somewhat recklessly digs through the dirt.

メReally?モ I say trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

メYeah. I think itユs for religious reasons,モ he says. メSee, thereユs your religion again. Look what it does to people . . .モ

My religion?モ I can barely keep the irritation out of my voice as I stop digging. メMy religion says to love everybody, even your enemy. Not to mention that I have a hard time believing that every religious person in this country goes around abducting Westerners.モ

メYes but itユs that religious sense of always being right,モ argues Steve. メPeople feel totally justified doing things in the name of their religion.モ

メPeople feel totally justified doing things even when they have no religion,モ I say, resuming my digging. メOur whole culture proves that.モ

メWell maybe you should become a Muslim then,モ says Steve grumpily. メYou can go around kidnapping innocent Westerners just because they had the misfortune to be born into a free society.モ

I sigh. I canユt be bothered with this conversation anymore. Maybe Iユll just ask if tomorrow I can go back with Mrs. Lineman and Mom.

When it becomes clear to Steve that Iユm not going to reply, he apologizes.

メIユm sorry,モ he says. メI donユt know why Iユm making it sound like youユre the problem.モ

 メI accept your apology,モ I say. My eyes are still on the dirt.

If Julia and Glen have been listening to our conversation, they give no indication of it. Theyユre playing Twenty Questions and having a great time trying to stump each other.

メHey!モ says Julia to me when they wrap up their game. Letユs play Who Said It? You and Steve be a team and Glen and I will be a team.モ

メSure,モ I say. Itユs a great time-killer and time can go slowly when all youユre doing is digging in the dirt.

メWhatユs Who Said It?モ asks Steve.

I have to resist telling him, メYou probably wouldnユt be good at it.モ

メGinny and I made the game up,モ says Julia. メYou quote somebody from the Bible and the other person tries to guess who said it. Do you guys know much Bible?モ

メIユve read it a few time,モ says Glen.

Steve looks at him in surprise.

メWell, at least Iユve got Ginny on my team,モ says Steve. メThatユll be my only hope.モ

With that comment, I warm up to him a bit.

メOK,モ says Julia. メWeユll start.モ She and Glen whisper amongst themselves.

メGive me children or I die,モ says Julia dramatically.

メDo you know that one?モ asks Steve.

メSure,モ I say, not bothering to tell him itユs relatively easy. メRachel to Jacob. His reply was, Am I God?モ

メOK, so do we get a point for that?モ asks Steve.

メOh, there are no points,モ I say. メItユs just the fun of trying to stump the other person. Now weユve got to come up with one that will stump then.モ I think for a bit. メHow about . . . ?モ I whisper something to him. He shrugs.

メGo for it.モ

メI didnユt laugh.モ

Julia thinks for a moment.

メSarah to God.モ

メHow do you know stuff like that?モ asks Steve.

メItユs simple,モ says Julia. メYou just have to know the story where Sarah laughs because God tells her sheユs going to have a baby.モ

メWhy did she say she didnユt laugh?モ

メBecause she was laughing because she didnユt believe it. She was really old at the time.モ

メDid you know all that?モ Steve asks Glen.

メIユm familiar with the story,モ Glen says. メI just might have gotten the names mixed up.モ

Steve shakes his head.

メWhy do you bother reading the Bible?モ he asks his brother. メTo be able to talk to Dad?モ

Glen shakes his head as he continues digging.

メTo me, the Bible is the answer for why the world is the way it is. I just started reading Genesis because itユs good literature and it has some dramatic stories but then I realized that the whole Garden of Eden story explains how there can be an all-powerful, loving God but still be a suffering world.モ

メHow does it explain that?モ Steve sounds as if he doubts such a thing is possible.

メSimple,モ says Glen. メGod made a perfect world. Man chose to sin. Itユs sin that makes this world ugly.モ

メThat doesnユt explain natural disasters,モ says Steve. メI can understand that itユs not Godユs fault if someone stabs someone because if he didnユt let stuff like that happen thereユd be no free will. But I donユt understand the impersonal stuff like hurricanes and tornadoes.モ

Glen thinks for a moment.

メThereユs a pretty powerful theme that Iユve noticed throughout the Bible and thatユs the idea that if youユre not for me, youユre against me. The people who are for God are protected. They can pray to him and expect him to hear and protect them. And when I say for him, I donユt mean in an abstract, distant kind of way. I mean, people who really love him.モ

Steve makes a face.

メWhat kind of God demands that we love him before heユll take care of us?モ

Glen shrugs.

メGod is our father, our creator, according to the Bible. But some people even go so far as to deny his existence. It would be like me going to Dad and saying, I donユt believe youユre actually my father, and sometimes I donユt even believe you exist. I certainly donユt love you, but I expect you to buy me everything I need and want.モ

メOK, youユve got me there,モ says Steve. メI can even see that if God is the creator of everything and we totally deny heユs there, heユs a pretty nice guy to let us keep living on his planet.モ

At that point we probably would have resumed our game except that thereユs a sudden shout from one of the students.

メIユve found something! I think itユs gold!モ



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

 

 

 

T

he first thing I notice is the look of horror on Dadユs face. I think he wishes that the student, a girl with long hair, a tie-die shirt and cut-off jeans, had been more discreet. Although the soldiers donユt flinch, weユd have to be pretty na夫e to think that just because they look like they arenユt listening that theyユre deaf.

Dr. Lineman and Dad hurry over to check out the find.

There are some feeble attempts by the rest of the group to carry on digging, but eventually everyone kind of drifts over to the locus where the golden object is. Even Mom and Mrs. Lineman have temporarily stopped making lunch to check it out.

Because of the necessity of having to take measurements and photos along the way, removing the golden object takes a couple of hours. Dr. Lineman, Dad and Henry work right through lunch and Abdullah shows up after lunch which means that one of the soldiers must have called him when they took a break.

Heユs wringing his hands and looking so tense youユd think weユd lost another student instead of found something great.

メMy guess is that itユs a chalice of some sort,モ says Dr. Lineman once half of the object is sticking out.

メItユs the Holy Grail!モ yells Steve.

His dad gives him a serious look.

メDonユt get rumours going, son. My guess is that it either belonged to a rich man or perhaps it was used in a religious ceremony.モ

メIt is Israelite then?モ asks Abdullah.

メHard to say at this point,モ says Dr. Lineman, as he carefully brushes away the dirt around the object. メOne thingユs for sure, itユs not Solomonic. Weユre at the wrong level. Oh, and incidently, Abdullah?モ

メYes?モ

メI was under the impression that we were starting off in the early third-century. How come it turns out we are digging in the early first-century?モ

Abdullah shrugs.

メOthers have dug here, perhaps.モ

Dr. Lineman sighs.

When the object is completely out of the ground everybody is impressed. Itユs intact and appears to be a gold cup.

Dr. Lineman is examining it while Abdullah is hovering over his shoulder.

メMy guess is that itユs Syrian and where we found it suggests itユs a first-century piece. Since Iユm an expert in the Solomonic period, thatユs really just my opinion. But I can tell you this, itユs not an Israelite piece. Itユs an amazing find though.モ

Dr. Lineman doesnユt say it but a lot of people must realize that this cup is worth a fortune. Abdullah seems nervous.

メIt will be safe?モ

メYou and the soldiers can accompany us to the hotel safe,モ says Dr. Lineman. メAnd if it would make you feel better, once weユve thoroughly examined it and photographed it, Iユll turn it over to your government. Youユll want one of your own men, an expert in Syrian archaeology, to look it over and determine how it might have been used.モ

メAh, yes,モ says Abdullah, who sounds as if he wishes the object were already hidden away in a government vault somewhere.

Abdullah comes back to the hotel with us and joins the meeting in our room. Normally the meeting would probably be held in Dr. Linemanユs room but since he was gone at the beginning of the dig, the habit of meeting in our room has just carried on. Abdullah orders from room service while heユs restlessly waiting for the gold cup to be examined and photographed. Soon, a pot of coffee, a pot of tea, and a giant plate of pastries arrive at our door. I wish Abdullah would come to all of the meetings.

After the meeting, Dr. Lineman, Abdullah and a couple of the soldiers take the cup downstairs to the hotel safe with the understanding that someone from the Syrian government will pick it up tomorrow.

Weユre all still in our room working on the pastries when Dr. Lineman returns without Abdullah.

メOh, Iユm glad youユre back,モ Dad says, pouring himself another tea. メOne thingユs been bothering me. Why did they tell us that we were starting at the third-century level?モ

Dr. Lineman thinks for a moment.

メMy impression is they wanted us doing the dig for them but thinking that we were two centuries later. It may not be politically correct to find a link between Solomonユs Jewish kingdom and Syria.モ

メBut in this case,モ says Dad, メwe would be promoting a first-century find as a third-century find. A third-century treasure is interesting, of course, but not nearly as interesting as anything found around the time of Christ.モ

Dr. Lineman nods and rolls his eyes. メI know. Steve with his Holy Grail comment. Everybody will want to speculate that the object was somehow connected with Christ or his disciples. So itユs a far more high-profile find than something two centuries after he died.モ

メThe cup might have coincided with the time of Christ,モ says Dad, sipping his tea. メBut it probably never left Syria.モ

メWell, at this point itユs not our concern anymore,モ says Dr. Lineman. メIt belongs to the government of Syria so whether they want to publicize the find is their business. Iユm really only interested in promoting anything related to the Bible.モ

メSomeone thinks we came here looking for treasure,モ Dad points out.

Dr. Lineman nods.

メI think the whole treasure of Tadmor thing is a myth and when we were told to stay away from the treasure of Tadmor, it was a way of saying leave our country and its artefacts alone.モ

A knock at the door interrupts the conversation.

Itユs Glen. Heユs slightly out of breath.

メDad! Steveユs gone again!モ



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

 

 

 

 

D

r. Lineman looks pale.

Mom gasps and Dad looks grim.

Henry and the student leaders look at each other as if to say, Uh-oh. Here we go again.

メAre you sure?モ Dad asks.

Glen nods.

メHe left a note this time.モ He holds a piece of paper out to his dad.

Dr. Lineman reaches for the note and as he reads it, he groans. The note drops onto our bed and I pick it up.

Iユve gone after the guys. Donユt worry about me. They wonユt get me twice. Steve

Dad looks at it.

メIs it legitimate?モ

Dr. Lineman nods.

メThatユs his handwriting and thatユs certainly his style.モ

メNonetheless, I think we should call Abdullah back.モ

Dr Lineman doesnユt look as if he likes the idea but he does nod reluctantly. Dad picks up the phone.

メHowユd he slip out?モ asks Dr. Lineman to Glen.

メMom was in the shower. Liamユs visiting Cherie and Don and that other guy, I forget his name . . .モ

Dr. Lineman nods.

メI fell asleep on the bed but I woke up when the door shut. Heユs only been gone two minutes.モ

メThen letユs go after him!モ cries Dr. Lineman as Dadユs hanging up the phone. Quickly the whole room is mobilised and we follow Dr. Lineman out the door.

Dr. Lineman pauses to ask a soldier something in Arabic. The soldier points to the end of the hallway and Dr. Lineman hurries toward the small room that holds the ice machine and a few vending machines. Itユs at this moment that Mrs. Lineman comes bursting out of the room wearing only a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. Wordlessly, Dr. Lineman grabs her hand.

メWhatユs going on?モ she demands. Of course, the note Steve left is still back on our bed so she only knows that when she came out of the shower none of her sons were there.

メSteve,モ is all her husband says and Mrs. Lineman looks as if she is going to cry.

The room with the vending machines is empty, but a small window is open. Dr. Lineman rushes over and looks out it.

メThere he is!モ he shouts.

Weユre on the third floor but this window is joined to a fire escape.

Next thing I know, weユre all following Dr. Lineman through the window and down the fire escape. I wouldnユt be surprised if someone phones the fire department with all these people escaping through a window. We certainly do get a lot of stares from the people on the road.

Dr. Lineman is running in the direction that he saw Steve. Steve must be quite a distance ahead of us since I canユt even see him at ground level. I think it would be more effective if we were to grab a taxi. But Dr. Lineman is in too much of a hurry to think it all through.

After about five minutes, Dr. Lineman stops in front of a falafel restaurant, huffing and puffing, and says, メThis is where I saw him. But who knows where he went from here.モ

メWell, my family and I will go back and wait for Abdullah,モ says Dad. メYou guys keep searching and if you get a chance, phone us.モ

Dr. Lineman nods as he scans the crowds. Mrs. Lineman doesnユt seem to care that sheユs just wearing a bathrobe.

Our family turns to head back while Henry and the student leaders stay with the Linemans.

We rush back to the hotel, though not running since weユre all a little tired. Abdullah is pulling up to the front of the hotel just as we arrive.

メWhat is this, Dr. Kent?モ he cries out as he jumps out of his van. メNot again? This is terrible!モ

メAt least this time he went voluntarily,モ says Dad, looking embarrassed. メAlthough come to think of it, he went voluntarily the last time too. He must have gotten it into his head that heユs going to be the hero and capture himself some bad guys.モ

Abdullah groans as we head into the hotel lobby.

メWhy can he not leave that to the police? They are not completely inefficient, you know.モ

We go back to our room while Abdullah talks to some of the soldiers. Then he comes into our room and asks Dad to show him where we left the Linemans. Rather than go out onto the street again, Dad takes him to the window by the vending machines and points out where we parted. A few minutes later, some of the soldiers have hopped into a jeep and joined the Linemans in their search.

Abdullah comes back to our room.

メThey will check out the airport and the bus station. He cannot get too far.モ

メI bet Dr. Lineman ties him to his bed after this,モ says Julia.

メHe would certainly deserve it,モ agrees Mom.

メIs this what is done to children when they are bad in Canada?モ asks Abdullah.

Dad laughs as the phone rings.

But it is not Dr. and Mrs. Lineman, just Liam asking where his parents are. Dad updates him. He wants to rush out and start looking for his brother, but Dad persuades him to come wait in our room until we know whatユs going on.

メItユs hard to sit and wait,モ complains Liam, a few minutes later as he paces back and forth in our room.

Mom agrees.

メIf anything happened to Ginny or Julia, I wouldnユt be able to sit still.モ

Abdullah pours himself a cup of coffee from the pot that was delivered earlier.

Dad glances at his watch.

メItユs dinner-time. If I donユt go down there the students might get concerned . . .モ

メDonユt worry about it,モ says Liam, staring out our window. メI told Cherie about Steve. By now the whole group, not to mention the hotel staff and half of Palmyra, knows.モ

Dad sighs.

メWell, thatユs that then. I guess itユs room service.モ

Abdullah goes ahead and orders a lavish Arab feast. I really like having Abdullah around. Otherwise, weユd all feel too guilty to have a good meal, but heユs not going to let tragedy interfere with his eating.

Weユre halfway through our lamb kabobs when a phone call comes.

Itユs Dr. Lineman.

Steve has been intercepted on a bus heading for Damascus. After determining that a young white male had boarded the bus, the soldiers had to race after it, stopping it on a highway. Despite his vehement resistance and his pleas to fellow passengers for help, they had bodily removed Steve from the bus.

They were all heading back to the hotel now and Dr. Lineman believed that Steve would probably be put under some sort of house arrest where he wouldnユt be able to leave his hotel room except to assist at the dig and even there he would be closely watched by the soldiers.

Abdullah is relieved and excuses himself. We donユt know whether itユs to go home or to go out and talk with the soldiers or Dr. Lineman, or what. Liam leaves with him and we decide as a family that itユs been a stressful day and that weユre going to make it an early night.

 

Steve looks a bit embarrassed the next day.

Everybody knows whatユs happened so thereユs lots of discussion and snickering about him.

Julia, however, couldnユt be more thrilled. The soldier assigned to making sure Steve doesnユt go anywhere is the one she has a crush on and that means heユs standing right beside our locus when we dig.

メI could reach out and touch his foot if I wanted to,モ she whispers to me at lunch.

メWould you want to do that?モ I ask, biting into my pita.

メDo you have a heart of stone?モ Julia demands. メCanユt you see the man is gorgeous?モ She forgets to whisper. Thankfully the only people who hear are our parents. Of course, theyユre used to Juliaユs crushes.

I shrug.

メHe doesnユt speak English. In fact, he doesnユt speak at all. Heユs probably a different religion than you, not to mention that heユs ten years older and could be married for all you know.モ

Julia sighs at my lack of sympathy as she reaches for another cucumber slice.

Despite the gorgeous soldier, Julia and Glen spend the time telling each other their life stories.

Steve doesnユt seem interested in talking which is fine by me.

Finally, near the end of the day he says, メThe police around here are so slow about doing anything. In countries like this it falls upon the citizens to take revenge for crimes and injustices.モ I think heユs trying to justify his behaviour and I donユt bother to remark that Syria seems quite progressive and modern to me. Instead, I make an メummモ noise to indicate Iユve heard him. If he wants to take it to mean that I agree with him, well, thatユs his business.

Itユs only by a quirk of fate that Steve gets to be the centre of attention again.

That evening, at dinner in the hotel dining room, weユre enjoying a delicious meal of eggplant parmigiana, roasted sweet potatoes, rice and salad. Thereユs a small table set-up where you can help yourself to more coffee, tea, water or cola. Steve is refilling his glass with cola, the rest of us are seated at our tables.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, men with their heads covered in keffiyahs burst into the room.

The soldiers are guarding the main entrance to the dining room but these men came through the door that leads to the kitchen.

Quickly, they survey the room and since Steve is the only one standing, they grab him and point a gun to his head.

By this time the soldiers are in the room, pointing their guns at the men and barking out orders in Arabic. Many of the men drop their weapons but the man that has Steve continues to hold him as a human shield with the gun still pointing to his head.

Steveユs mom is in hysterics and Dr. Lineman looks furious.

The man that has Steve yells something in Arabic. One of the soldiers translates.

メHe says he wants the treasure you find.モ

Dr. Lineman groans.

メHe says you have no right to take our nationユs antiquities.モ

Dr. Lineman stands up.

メPlease tell him we are not interested in taking Syriaユs national treasures. In fact, the gold cup he is no doubt referring to was turned over to a member of the Syrian government today.モ

When the soldier translates, the man holding Steve looks surprised. It kind of takes the wind out of his sails. But he valiantly rallies himself and starts talking again.

メHe says, go home and leave our history alone,モ translates the soldier.

メYou have a history that is intriguing, not just for you, but for students all around the world. What we do, we donユt do just for ourselves, but for all Syrians and all who love Syria.モ

The soldier translates and the man doesnユt have much to say to this. Continuing to use Steve as a shield, he makes his way back to the entrance to the kitchen where he suddenly pushes Steve away and runs for it. The other men with him have already been making their way slowly over to the kitchen and this is their cue to run for their lives.

The soldiers pursue them, clearly reluctant to just gun them down.

Mrs. Lineman leaps to her feet to embrace Steve. From outside in the parking lot we can hear gunfire and shouts so it sounds as if there are going to be some arrests.

メAll a misunderstanding,モ says Dr. Lineman, groaning as he sinks back into his chair. Mrs. Lineman is clutching Steveユs arm and I have a feeling that she wonユt be letting go of him until weユre all safely back in Canada. メNo doubt their leaders have told them that we Westerners are here to pillage all their national treasures and then send them out to do the dirty work of scaring us into going back home.モ

Naturally, Abdullah shows up at the hotel in the evening and there is an informal meeting in our room.

メGood news. Good news,モ he says beaming and rubbing his hands. メThose trouble-makers are in prison. They will bother you no longer.モ

メAre they the ones who abducted Steve?モ Mrs. Lineman asks.

メOh yes,モ Abdullah assures her. メThey are also the ones responsible for Henry going missing. They were the soldiers assigned to protect you. A cousin of one of the soldiers paid them quite generously to abduct him.モ

メSo we should be able to dig in peace now?モ asks Mrs. Lineman hopefully.

メOh yes,モ Abdullah assures her. メNow that the treasure of Tadmor is safely in the governmentユs hands you will be fine.モ

メThe treasure of Tadmor?モ says Dad. メYou believe that cup to be the treasure of Tadmor?モ

メOh yes,モ says Abdullah nodding. メBut of course. There have always been rumours of a fabulous treasure from the first-century. It is with some embarrassment I confess that part of the reason I was assigned to be your liaison was to keep an eye on you in case you found it. But that is all behind us now, yes?モ He beams. メI am still here to help you if you need it and tomorrow you will be able to peacefully resume your digging. You will still have soldiers guarding you but, of course, it is just a precaution. No further harm will come to you.モ He gives a little bow and exits the room.

メThey knew weユd be digging in the first-century,モ says Dr. Lineman. メSo just in case the treasure happened to be there, they told us it was the third-century and assigned Abdullah to keep an eye on things.モ He sighs and rubs his head with his fingers. メAll because they didnユt trust the Westerners. Oh well. I guess I might do the same under the circumstances. Letユs call it a night.モ

 

The next day thereユs sort of a feeling around the site that the excitement is over, we can all get down to the work of proving that there was a link between Solomon and Tadmor, even if it takes us five years. For this season, we have six weeks of digging left and Dr. Lineman figures that there may be other interesting finds, although less spectacular than the chalice. Dad has an interesting theory about the chalice. Heユs suggested that it may have been used by early Christians as part of the Eucharist. He and Dr. Lineman are going ask to re-examine it again.

There are still soldiers guarding us but the numbers are way down. There used to be about twenty. Now there are five. Much to Juliaユs disappointment, her favourite one is gone. But at least it frees her up to be with Glen.

While Glen and Julia talk about every book theyユve ever read, every song theyユve ever liked, and every place theyユve ever been, Steve tells me all his reasons for rejecting his fatherユs religion.

メI mean, you look at history. How much bloodshed has there been over Christianity?モ he says. メI canユt follow a religion that led to the Crusades or the Inquisition or even whatユs going on in Northern Ireland.モ

I laugh and he looks at me strangely.

メHavenユt you heard of a just war?モ I say. メIf it werenユt for the Crusades, weユd all be Muslim now.モ

メOK, you might have something there. But why are there so few people who actually do what Jesus says?モ

メBecause itユs hard,モ I say.

メNo it isnユt,モ says Steve. メAll you have to do is say a little prayer and youユre in. Or in my dadユs case, have a priest sprinkle water on you and oil and a prayer.モ

メJesus told one man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and then come follow him,モ I say. メThe man was rich and he went away sad because he had wanted it to be a little easier. Jesus said things like, blessed are the meek. I mean, who wants to be meek?モ

I look over at my mom and Mrs. Lineman. They could both be beautiful if they tried. But neither of them dress to be noticed and they both donユt mind doing all the work that isnユt usually appreciated.

メPeople donユt want to go around being humble and serving other people,モ I say.

メIs that what Jesus taught?モ

メSure,モ I say, pausing from my work. メDad says itユs radically contrary to what we want to do but it takes us to a higher dimension. When you start practising love and mercy and patience and all that, you get to see things more from Godユs perspective.モ

メWell, I didnユt think about it that way,モ says Steve. Heユs completely stopped working. メBut one thing that bugs me is that youユve got all these people around the world, like Hindus and stuff, and because they arenユt Christian, theyユre going to go to hell.モ

メWell,モ I say, glad that Dad and I have talked about some of these very things. メJesus told the Jewish people of his time that it would be harder for them in the judgement day than it would be for the people of Tyre and Sidon, who were Gentiles. The Jewish people had heard his message and rejected it. He said the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they had heard his message. Itユs too simplistic to say that because some Hindu never accepted Jesus, or even heard about Jesus, that heユs going to hell. It sounds more like heユll be judged for how he would have received the message about Jesus dying on the cross for his sins.モ

メYeah but everybody just says if youユre not a Christian, youユre going to hell. And then some flood comes along and wipes out an entire village in Peru and I think, is that really fair? All those people just dying and going to hell and they didnユt even have a chance to live long enough to decide if they wanted to be a Christian. And, like, thatユs another thing. Why does God let people die in natural disasters like floods and tornadoes and stuff like that?モ

I sigh.

メSteve, thatユs a bit of a clich. You donユt even believe it yourself.モ

メSure I do.モ He looks indignant.

メWhoユs your neighbour back home?モ

メI dunno. Some old guy. I think his name is Simpson. Or it might be his cat whose name is Simpson.モ

メOK, so Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself. What have you done to love your neighbour?モ

メWell, pretty much nothing except to leave him alone.モ

メDo you love him?モ

メNot really.モ

メSo why do you care what happens to some village in Peru? You wonユt even lift a finger to help your neighbour in Canada. The thing is, God loves everyone. We canユt pretend we love everyone more than God. Most of us donユt even do much to help the people around us, but then when we hear about a hurricane wiping out a village, we act like weユre more loving and caring than God and that itユs so unfair that something happened to these poor people. I could accept you being upset with God if you spent your life running around trying to help people who were flood victims, or hurricane victims, or whatever. Then I would say you have a right to ask God why he lets these things happen.モ

Steve laughs.

メOK, so Iユm a hypocrite. Besides, I kind of know why God doesnユt interfere all the time. We donユt want him to. I canユt expect God to save me from a hurricane if I wonユt give him the time of day when everythingユs going great.モ

Mercifully, Steve leaves it at that.

With the exception of Steve bugging me, things have relaxed for everyone. When we get back to the hotel weユre allowed to go out in small groups to go swimming or to explore the area surrounding the hotel. A lot of the students go back to the ruins of Palmyra to enjoy the spectacular ancient city. Dr. Lineman asks the hotel if we can have a late dinner to accommodate the excursions.

Of course, Henry is planning all sorts of expeditions around the area for all who are interested. Dad informs our family that weユll be required to attend them all. Normally, Julia would be rolling her eyes about this but the Linemans have informed their sons that attendance is mandatory for them as well, so Julia will have Glen to keep her company. I think Glen would have gone anyhow.

The next day, after the dig and the post-dig meeting, we set out on foot with our two families and about ten students to see more of the ancient city. Itユs six square kilometres so thereユs lots we havenユt seen.

As weユre walking to the site Steve calls out to Henry, メSo, whatユs the entire history of Tadmor, Henry?モ

If Henry realizes that Steve is having fun with him, he doesnユt let on.

メIユm glad you asked, Steve,モ he says, as he wipes the sweat of his brow. When weユre digging weユre underneath a tarp but now weユre out in the open with the late afternoon sun beating down on us. メOf course, you know that Tadmor was part of King Solomonユs territory. Itユs also mentioned in one of the Mari tablets, which as you also probably know was in Assyria. Tadmor rose in prominence because of its location between China and the Mediterranean, making it a natural rest spot along the Silk Road. It was also located between the two empires of Rome and Persia. For the sake of trading, it was in Tadmorユs interest to ally herself with Rome. Under Tiberius, Tadmor was integrated into the province of Syria. This happened between 14 and 37 C.E.モ

メDuring the life of Christ,モ remarks Dr. Lineman.

Henry carries on.

メIt was around this time Tadmor became known as the City of Palm Trees and when the emperor Adrian visited, he declared Tadmor a free city. In return the people named their city Adriana Palmyra. In 212 C.E. Palmyra was declared a Roman colony, something which pleased the people since up til then high taxes had been imposed on the luxury goods that passed through the city. Now they were exempt from paying these taxes and the money freed the people to build up the city, making it one of the most beautiful in the Roman Empire.モ

I have to admit, this history does make the ruins more interesting. As we arrive at the ruins, Henry is pointing out certain archaeological facts as we walk down the main street. Heユs talking about things like tetrapylons and funerary towers. I donユt take it all in. He announces that weユll go have a good look at the Temple of Bel and then resumes his history.

メThe conflict between Persia and Rome continued and Rome appealed to Palmyra for help. Odeinat, the leader at the time, was cooperative. When he was murdered, his wife Zenobia took over and she wasnユt so cooperative. She was said to be exceptionally attractive and intelligent, gifted in speaking many languages and a patron to the scholars, philosophers and theologians. During the reign of Emperor Aurelian, in around 268, I believe, Zenobia decided to take on Rome. Because Aurelian was already busy with many civil and external conflicts, Zenobiaユs army took over all of Syria. While she was working on taking Egypt and Asia Minor, Aurelian formed a new army for the purpose of taking his revenge and this new force conquered Zenobiaユs army in Homs and then moved against Palmyra until it fell in 274. Zenobia was taken to Rome in chains, but at least they were gold chains. Ah, here we are, the Temple of Bel.モ

We stop in front of an impressive arrangement of columns and walls still intact. Itユs enormous.

Before Henry can launch into any discussion about the temple, Steve is dashing off towards it, his parents right behind him so as not to lose him again. The rest of us follow at a more leisurely pace. Dad has a close look at the carvings on the walls while Julia, Glen, Mom and I find a large stone to sit on and watch the late afternoon tourists as they drift from one ruin to the next. The sun is getting low in the sky which increases the dramatic effect of the whole site.

We canユt stay long or else weユll miss our dinner but Henry promises us that sometime weユll take the bus and go up the hill to the Arab Castle of Fakhredin Al Maany, a later addition to the site. On the walk back he resumes his history.

メAfter Queen Zenobia was taken to Rome, the city was looted and destroyed. The Romans destroyed Zenobiaユs palace and replaced it with a military camp. The city remained, in much part, ruined, although a few churches were built in the Byzantine era. Then the Arabs took control of the city and built the castle weユll hopefully have a chance to visit. Iユll stop there, for now.モ

Steve claps and Henry takes a bow.

I suspect that Henry knew that Steve was being sarcastic when he asked for the entire history of Palmyra but that he decided to take advantage of the opportunity anyhow.

When we get back to the hotel we have falafels for dinner, which is basically chick peas and spices mashed into a ball and deep-fried, stuffed into a pita with sauce and tomatoes and cucumbers. Itユs really good. Itユs the Arab equivalent of fast food. After that, bed-time.

 

While Julia and Glen have an animated discussion about their favourite Bible characters, Steve decides to blame me for all the problems he has with the Bible.

メLike all that stuff about Creation,モ heユs saying as we poke away at the dirt. Iユm playing with a tiny piece of fabric I found in the corner of our locus -- probably something that came off of some tourist and blew over here. Not worth bothering Dad about. メYou donユt seriously believe with all of our information about evolution that God actually created the earth in six days six thousand years ago.モ

メWell, Steve, I actually do.モ I continue to poke away in the corner. More of that fabric. I hope itユs not something gross like a used handkerchief.

Steve is disappointed that I donユt defend my position so he pushes further.

メCユmon! Carbon dating proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth is millions of years old!モ

Iユm glad that Glen jumps in at this point.

メThen why is it that when Christian scientists submit some volcanic material from a volcano that they know erupted thirty years ago that it comes back as being thousands of years old?モ he asks his brother.

メSo they make mistakes sometimes! Big deal!モ

He turns back to me, but I just shrug. Steve is in an antagonistic mood, not one conducive to any real discussion.

メAnd dinosaurs!モ he goes on. メThey lived millions of years before man!モ

メThen why are there cave drawings of them?モ Glen asks. メWhy is it that men who lived supposedly millions of years after they died out knew what they looked like?モ

Steve groans.

メAnd why is it that there are all those dragon legends?モ Glen continues. メ Do you think people all over the world just all made up these stories about these mythical creatures?モ

メThey can tell by the bones how old they are,モ says Steve confidently.

メThatユs pretty weird coming from an archaeologistユs son,モ Glen says. メHow many artifacts has Dad dug up that came with a date stamped on it? Itユs pure guesswork.モ

メItユs an educated guess,モ argues Steve.

Iユm glad the brothers are arguing now. Glen is enjoying himself. Itユs obvious he does even more reading than me.

メItユs a guess based on presuppositions,モ Glen says. メSome dinosaur bones have even been found with red blood cells still in them. That hardly bodes well for the millions-of-years theory.モ

メI canユt believe that all those scientists are wrong!モ says Steve. メAnd I think that you Christians are pretty ignorant for thinking youユre smarter than them all!モ

I sigh but Glen grins as he shakes his head.

メSteve, if you want to explain to me how this incredibly complex world of plants, animals, people . . .モ Glen starts looking around, メ. . . sky, grass, sand, and trees all evolved from a single cell, without even getting into the issue of how complex a single cell is and how impossible it would be for one to just suddenly appear, well, go ahead.モ

Steve turns to me.

メGinny!ユ He almost sounds like heユs pleading with me. メPlease tell me youユre not one of those losers who goes around saying that the Bible knows more than science.モ

 メThereユs very little you could say that would cause me to doubt my faith,モ I say. メAnd clearly thereユs nothing I could say that would cause you to want to accept mine.モ Iユm still digging away in the corner. There seems to be some more of that fabric caught in the sand and now Iユm getting curious.

After lunch, Steve launches on another grievance.

メThe church is full of hypocrites.モ

I sigh as he carries on. Julia and Glen arenユt even listening. Theyユre laughing and playing twenty questions.

メWhy would I want to be a Christian and go around pretending to be all pious and then when nobodyユs looking, do my own thing?モ

メSteve, I donユt know why you would want to do that. I certainly wouldnユt want to do that.モ

メYou know what I mean. There are all these people pretending to be holy who are really just as bad as the rest of us.モ

メWell Steve, youユd have to be specific because I havenユt met too many people like that.モ

メThatユs because you only see the holy side of them. You donユt know what they do when theyユre alone.モ

メSteve, if you want to write off all of Christianity because of some hypothetical people who do some hypothetical things when nobody else is around, go ahead. Youユre looking for an excuse not to believe.モ

メIユm not looking for an excuse. Iユm just demonstrating how Christianity is for losers.モ

Dad is passing by and he smiles.

メChristianity is for losers,モ he says to Steve. メItユs for people who need Christ in order to have eternal life.モ

I was going to mention to Dad that I think Iユve found part of an old t-shirt but he moves right along.

メSo if you think you can do it on your own, go right ahead,モ I canユt resist adding to Steve.

メWhat am I going to do with eternal life?モ demands Steve. I donユt think heユs done any digging all day, heユs been so busy harassing me.

I shrug.

メSo die instead. The Bible says the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.モ

メSin, sin, sin! Itユs all this talk about sin that makes me sick! Whatユs the big deal about sin?モ

メItユs no big deal until you face God in the judgement day. Then you might find itユs somewhat of a big deal.モ

メWhat kind of God has a judgement day where everyone has to come in front of him and get into trouble for all the bad things heユs ever done?モ

メA holy God,モ Glen calls out. メA just God.モ

メWhatユs the big deal about justice?モ says Steve.

メDonユt tell me you donユt like justice, Steve,モ I say. メYou want your kidnappers to get justice. You want there to be justice for anyone who does something nasty to you, but if youユre the one sinning you want to be left alone about it.モ

メMy sins donユt hurt anyone,モ says Steve triumphantly.

メIf you think that one through long enough, youユll figure out it isnユt true,モ I mutter. I donユt have the nerve to point out that his leaving the group that day he was abducted caused his parents unspeakable grief and anxiety.

メAll sin directly or indirectly hurts someone,モ says Glen. メTake away sin and weユd have paradise.モ

メNo, weユd still have cancer and heart disease and . . .モ

メProbably not,モ Glen says. メIf big corporations didnユt dump their toxic waste into the environment, if food companies didnユt make products that clog up the arteries, if people did everything they could to look after each other, I doubt very much weユd die of anything but old age.モ

メWould you stay out of this?モ says Steve to Glen. He turns back to me. メOK, you might have a point, but still . . .モ

But still . . . It drives me bonkers. Iユm digging away at the t-shirt. Itユs probably one of those tacky tourist ones, ヤI Survived Palmyraユ.

Henry is coming around to each locus to tell us that there will be a tour of the local museum leaving about half an hour after we get back to the hotel. Thereユs no need to tell us archaeologistsユ kids that it will be a mandatory field trip.

Obviously, the museum has a lot of artifacts from Palmyra, but when Steve hears that they have some mummies itユs only both his parents keeping a grip on his arms that prevents him from going off by himself.

The museum has other stuff too and with Henry leading us we cover a sculpture exhibit, multitudinous pottery displays, mosaics, gold and bronze artifacts, plus an extensive display on Syrian folklore. Steve is happy when we visit the mummies, but spends the rest of the tour asking Henry pseudo-intelligent questions that are subtly making fun of the whole experience.

メHenry, what sort of food did they eat off of these platters?モ

メHenry, does this piece of pottery show a Canaanite influence?モ

メHenry, does this mosaic contain any warrior themes in its bold perimeter patterns?モ

メHenry, what carat gold is this plate?モ

メHenry, would this bowl have been used in ritual purification?モ

OK, Iユll admit that coming from an archaeology family, we get to see a lot of museums, but Steve sounds as if he resents it. Liam endures it, but Glen seems to enjoy it. The funny thing is, because Glen is enjoying the museum, Julia has to pretend to too.

After the full tour, we head back to the hotel to a dinner of shish kabobs, rice and vegetables.

 

メWhat do you have over here?モ Dr. Lineman asks, as he peers down into our hole. Because of Steveユs tendency to run away, Dr. Lineman is personally supervising our locus.

メI dunno,モ I say. メJust a piece of old t-shirt, I guess.モ

メLet me have a look,モ he says, hopping down with us. He takes over my tool and begins to poke around.

メHey, Anderson!モ he calls out to my dad. メCome here for a sec!モ

His voice is casual so no one is distracted from their work.

My dad finishes what heユs saying to one of the student leaders and then ambles over.

Dad hops down into the locus with us.

メI think we might have something here,モ says Dr. Lineman, quietly. Dad crouches down and takes a careful look.

メCould anything that delicate have survived for so long?モ he asks.

メWell, like Ginny says, it looks like a t-shirt now, but my guess is that it was a far sturdier material two thousand years ago.モ

Very carefully, Dad touches the fabric.

メYouユre probably right.モ

Even Julia and Glen are watching the exchange between their fathers.

メIユll get the brushes,モ says Dad standing up and hopping out of the hole. It must be important if theyユre going to lay aside the rougher tools for the delicate brushes.

When Dr. Lineman skips lunch in order to continue working in our locus, the whole dig site notices and a buzz starts going around. Soon there are some students standing watching although the fact that it is just a piece of cloth sends a few of them back to their own locus.

This time Abdullah doesnユt show up so obviously none of the soldiers have instructions about calling him.

メOK, this is it,モ says Dr. Lineman softly. Henry has been taking photos and measurements and the time has come to pull it out of the ground. At this point Dr. Lineman has put on gloves to handle whatever it is. When itユs pulled out of the ground, itユs obvious that the cloth is wrapped around something. Whatever it is, itユs fairly small, maybe the size of a jar of peanut butter. Dad has some bubble wrap and a plastic bag ready to put it in. The find will be examined back in the hotel room. I can hardly wait.

Dr. Lineman packs the find up in one of the cases and by this time the dig day is over and weユre gathering up all our stuff and getting on the bus.

There was a trip scheduled to go back to the ruins of Palmyra to see the ancient theatre, market place and banqueting hall but this gets postponed in order to examine the find.

The Linemans and the students leaders, including Henry, and of course, our family, are all gathered around the table where the artifact has been laid. Slowly and carefully, Dr. Lineman peels the fabric off of whateverユs underneath. It turns out to be a small clay jar.

メIt puts me in mind of the Qumran pieces,モ says Dad. メThough a lot smaller.モ Qumran is a series of caves in Israel where a bunch of first-century manuscripts were found in pots.

メYou might have something there, Anderson,モ says Dr. Lineman as he examines the pot and then glances inside it. メI think thereヤs something inside this . . .モ

We wait as Henry hands him a slim flashlight.

メItユs a scroll!モ says Dr. Lineman excitedly.



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

 

 

 

 

I

 donユt dare try to remove it, itユs too delicate,モ says Dr. Lineman. メBut weユll have to get it to a laboratory.モ

メIユll phone Abdullah,モ says Dad. メWeユll probably have to take it to the university in Damascus.モ

By the time dinner rolls around, itユs been decided that our family will be taking the scroll to Damascus tomorrow while Dr. Lineman will stay and supervise the dig. Glen begs his Dad to let him accompany us and the way his dad looks so pleased, I donユt think he realizes itユs as much to be with Julia as it is to be close to the scroll.

That night, after dinner, Dad is online sending a lengthy message to Uncle Ken. He's really excited about this scroll thing. I think, for an archaeologist, this is one of the most amazing things you can discover. A pot or a piece of jewellery is cool but a scroll is the best because it actually has information. With a pot, you just have to do a lot of guessing as to what it might have been used for. After he sends his email, he orders us all to bed saying we have a big day ahead of us.

 

We have breakfast with the students in the dining room as usual. Then our family, along with Glen, board the mini-van for the long drive to Damascus. Julia and Glen take the back seat and immediately begin chattering about something. I'm in the middle and Dad and Mom are in the front.

Just as we're pulling out of the parking lot, Abdullah pulls in and signals Dad to roll down his window. He dramatically announces that he will be our escort to Damascus. Dad doesn't oppose the idea and Abdullah announces that he will lead since he doesn't need a map to get to Damascus.

Once we get out of town, we're on a main highway that doesn't seem designed to be scenic, although we do see a shepherd with his herd of sheep -- a very Biblical-looking scene. Dad tells us that chickens and cows are also popular to raise. We pass by some wheat fields and Dad tells us to keep our eyes open because we'll see many different kinds of crops -- fruits, vegetables, barley, cotton and tobacco.

Abdullah pulls off the main highway into a small village. A short cut to Damascus? The dirt roads are rustic and quiet, the few villagers out look friendly and unthreatening. Abdullah stops in front of the only building that is full of life, an open-air restaurant that is packed with Arab men drinking their morning coffee. Dad doesn't get out because he doesn't want to leave the scroll, or us, unattended. But Abdullah goes ahead and buys coffee for Dad and Mom and a bag of sweets for メthe children.モ

Once back on the highway, we pass several factories. Glen asks Dad what they might be making.

メAs far as I know, Syria mainly manufactures refined petroleum, chemicals, textiles and processed foods,モ Dad calls back. メOh, and precision-engineered products.モ

メWhat are precision-engineered products?モ demands Julia.

Before Dad can answer, Glen launches into a detailed answer. Dad and Mom exchange an amused glance. Maybe this is preparing them for what it's going to be like to have a son-in-law.

We pass by a building that looks like a church instead of a mosque.

メIs that a church?モ I ask. メI thought everyone here is Muslim.モ

メAbout 10% of the population is Christian,モ says Dad. メThe numbers are larger in the areas that have a Christian association. You know how it is in Jerusalem, all divided up into quarters and one of the quarters is Arab Christian. Your mother and I have many Arab Christian friends in Israel from the digs we worked on when you were younger.モ

Mom agrees.

With Glen explaining precision-engineered products behind me and Dad and Mom reminiscing about some of their Arab Christian friends in Israel in front of me, I drift off to sleep and don't wake up until we're in the crowded streets of Damascus. The streets are bustling, shops are doing a brisk business, women in their long dresses are moving along the streets with purpose, men in their dress shirts and western-style pants are milling about, some shopping, some just standing around talking.

メI'm grateful for Abdullah,モ says Dad. メReading a map and manoeuvring through this traffic would have been a nightmare. It's enough of a challenge just to keep him in front of me.モ

Abdullah takes us to the old city, winding down several side-streets until we stop in front of a large stone home with a black iron fence around it.

メThis doesn't look like part of the university,モ says Dad as we follow Abdullah. Abdullah has gotten out of his car to swing the gate open and we follow him up the driveway after a pause to shut the gate.

メWelcome! Welcome!モ he says as we get out of the van. メI bring you to the house of my friend Dr. Sabina Mansoor. She is an archaeology professor at the university and is an expert on Palmyra.モ

メI think we may need a lab to remove the scroll from the pot, メ says Dad.

メShe does much work here at home,モ says Abdullah. メIn fact, several of her students live here as well and assist her. Be assured, Dr. Kent, she has the proper facilities.モ

We are heading for the large wood door at the centre of the house. Abdullah reaches it first and rings a doorbell.

The door is opened by a young Arabic man wearing a casual white shirt and jeans.

メSabbaah al-khayr!モ Abdullah greets him. メDr. Mansoor is expecting us.モ

メSabaah an-nuur,モ the young man nods. メAhlan wa sahlan.モ

メHello and welcome,モ Abdullah translates for us.

メTaユal,モ the man says. メCome.モ

We follow him into the house. From the outside I would have expected a rich interior with plush carpets and expensive furniture, but the house is decorated modestly. We are in a foyer but I can see into the living room and the dining room. The floors are bare and the furniture is a simple white wood. The living room is carpeted and several large cushions are scattered around the room. The walls are a pale green with framed black and white photos of archaeological digs neatly arranged in a line in each room.

At the dining room table sit several young Arab men drinking coffee with books and papers spread out in front of them. Down the hallway I can see an older Arab woman working in what looks like a kitchen.

The young man directs us to the living room where Dad, Mom and Abdullah take the long couch up against one wall and we younger people take the cushions on the floor.

Dr. Mansoor doesn't keep us waiting.

She comes in smiling.

She is modestly dressed in a long skirt and a dark blouse with hair pulled back into a bun. She looks about the same age as Dad and Mom.

 メHello there!モ she says, shaking Dad and Mom's hand and smiling at Abdullah before sitting down. メAbdullah has told me much about you and I am privileged to be the one to examine your finding.モ

メDr. Mansoor has studied at Oxford,モ says Abdullah proudly. メShe is one of our finest archaeologists.モ

メI have worked for many years at Palmyra,モ says Dr. Mansoor. メI have heard all about your escapades with the treasure of Tadmor.モ

メDr. Mansoor,モ Dad says, leaning forward. メDo you believe that we found the treasure of Tadmor?モ

Dr. Mansoor laughs.

メMy students have been debating that for several days now. We are the ones who examined the cup. I will say this, it is a treasure.モ

メI think this may be a greater treasure,モ says Dad, handing her the box that contains the pot with the scroll. メFrom an archaeological standpoint, that is.モ

Carefully Dr. Mansoor takes the box.

メCome,モ she says standing up. メWe will go downstairs to the lab. You are, no doubt, very eager to examine your find.モ

We all head downstairs, along with a few of the students.

The lab takes up the entire basement and while it sort of resembles a medical laboratory in its layout, the furniture is all wood and the walls are covered in photos and charts. There is a big comfy couch at the end of the room, which Julia, Glen and I sit on while the others gather around one of the tables.

Dr. Mansoor puts on gloves to handle the small pot. One of her students opens a drawer and gets out something that looks like a pair of tweezers and hands them to Dr. Mansoor. Carefully, she begins to pull out the scroll. She's doing it with such care that the whole procedure takes about ten minutes.

When it's finally out, another student gets something that looks like a Ziploc bag, except that it's long and rectangular. Using the tweezers and a finger, the delicate scroll is unrolled and then quickly inserted into the bag and sealed.

All the adults breathe a sigh of relief.

メIt's beautiful,モ says Dr. Mansoor. メPerfectly intact. My guess is that it's written in first-century koine Greek. I'm not an expert in the language but one of my students is.モ She turns to one of the students.

メAhmed, please go get Youssef.モ

After Ahmed goes upstairs, she turns to Dad and Mom.

メYoussef is a Christian, like me. You are also Christian?モ

Dad and Mom look thrilled as they nod. She smiles.

Youssef is already hurrying down the stairs.

Dr. Mansoor waves him over.

メFirst-century Greek, Youssef. Can you read it?モ

Eagerly Youssef leans down on the table to examine the scroll.

He says something to Dr. Mansoor.

メIt is written with marvellous clarity,モ she translates. Youssef begins to read out loud in Greek.

A strange look passes across his face.

メIn English, if possible, please,モ says Abdullah.

メWhat is it?モ asks Dr. Mansoor, who has noticed the expression on Youssef's face.

He begins to talk rapidly in Arabic. Dr. Mansoor's eyes widen.

メYou must tell them!モ she interrupts.



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

 

 

 

I

 will read and translate,モ says Youssef, in a thick accent. He begins to read slowly. メThere was a man who had two sons. The one who was younger said to his father, Father give me my part of the estate. So he divided his property between them . . .モ

Mom gasps.

She and Dad look at each other in amazement.

メIt's the story of the prodigal son!モ exclaims Dad looking stunned.

メThis is remarkable, yes?!モ says Dr. Mansoor.

メWhat is the prodigal son?モ asks Abdullah.

メIt's a parable told by Jesus,モ says Dad turning towards him. メThis is a first-century copy of a parable told by Jesus. The scroll itself is priceless. But it also gives us a hint as to how the stories were spread and it's proof of how early and how far they were spread.モ

メShall I read more?モ asks Youssef. He looks eager.

メOf course, of course,モ says Dr. Mansoor, waving him on to continue.

メNot long after that the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there wasted his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, how many of my father's hired servants have food to spare and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men.モ

メThis is remarkably accurate,モ says Dad. メIt's a fantastic testimony to the preservation of Scripture.

Dr. Mansoor nods.

メSo he got up and went to his father,モ continues Youssef. メBut while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.モ

メThis is a very interesting story,モ says Abdullah. メYou say Jesus told it?モ

Dad nods.

メThe son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.モ

メI think he will be jealous,モ predicts Abdullah.

Abdullah seems to really be enjoying this story. This is the first time he's heard it and for a tiny moment it gives me an idea of what it must have been like to hear Jesus's stories as he told them. I guess I take the Bible for granted but the way Abdullah is listening to Youssef, it makes me think the people were probably gathered around Jesus, getting into the story, not wanting to miss a single detail, some even scribbling down notes to take home to their families.

メYour brother has come, he replied. And your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. The older brother became angry and refused to go in.モ

Abdullah nods his agreement to this.

メSo his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, Look! All these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders! Yet, you never even gave me a young goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! My son, the father said. You are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.モ

Youssef looks up to signify the end of the story.

Abdullah nods enthusiastically.

メIt is very good, yes? The younger brother, he is foolish but he is smart enough to go home to his father. The older brother has been with his father all along but never knew how good it was in his fatherユs home. There is much to think about in this,モ says Abdullah. メSo this is a story your Jesus told? Maybe I should read more of his stories?モ

Dr. Mansoor smiles.

メThey are all very special,モ she says.

I guess I just took the stories of Jesus for granted. I've never met anyone who didn't already know them backwards and forwards so it's fascinating to see someone hear one for the first time. I never knew they were this powerful.

Someone upstairs calls down something in Arabic

メLunch-time,モ says Dr. Mansoor. メLife does not stop, even for priceless artifacts. Please stay and be my guests.モ

We agree and after packing up the scroll and locking it in a safe, we go upstairs to join the other students at the long dining room table.

Abdullah tells us that we are eating one of the national dishes called kubbeh which is minced semolina and meat shaped into balls with lots of onions and nuts in them. There is also yabrak, leaves filled with minced meat and rice. I think the leaves are grape leaves. Itユs all quite tasty. For dessert, there is a large bowl of fruit and many cups of Turkish coffee.

Over the coffee the adults are discussing the impact that the scroll is going to have on the archaeological world as well as the Christian world. Even Julia and Glen are talking to each other about it.

Dad doesnユt mention it but this find is going to make him and Dr. Lineman famous. Heユll get to write articles for everything from scholarly archaeology reviews to evangelical magazines, not to mention the lectures at all the universities. But then Dr. Mansoor says something that raises the level of importance of this find to one beyond all expectation.

メIt is just a theory . . .モ says Dr. Mansoor, slowly, allowing herself time to think. メThat perhaps this is the treasure of Tadmor . . . Could this be what the Greek merchant was bringing home to his wife?モ

メOf course!モ says Mom, her eyes bright. メThe teachings of Jesus would be life-transforming! The man would be very excited at what he was bringing home to his wife!モ

Dad is more cautious. But he agrees that the legend of the treasure of Tadmor certainly merits closer study in relationship to this find.

Now that we know what we have, Dad doesnユt want to travel around Syria with a priceless artifact in his position. We wait in Dr. Mansoorユs living room until the time when Dr. Lineman is back at the hotel, then Dad phones. Abdullah has already rushed off to tell whoever he tells in his government about the find. Dr. Lineman, however, wants to see the scroll before it gets turned over to the government so he says that he will be leaving immediately to come examine it, bringing his wife and Steve with him. Henry and Liam will be left in charge.

Dr. Lineman suggests we rent a hotel in Damascus but Dr. Mansoor wonユt hear of it and says there is plenty of room for all of us, not to mention facilities for examining the scroll.

While Dr. Lineman is hiring a car and hurrying to Damascus, I wonder what weユre going to do since none of us have even packed a toothbrush. Turns out Mom thought ahead and threw together a bag with a change of clothes for all of us. She assures Glen that his parents will bring something for him. He doesnユt seem too concerned.

The day is getting late and itユs time for another meal. This one is a lot lighter. It consists of some salads and pita bread.

The dining room table is full and everyone seems to know about the scroll so Dad is bombarded with questions about where the scroll was found, how old it is, the condition of it. Abdullah shows up around coffee time and wiggles in beside Dad. Since I had been the one beside him before Abdullah showed up, I can hear Abdullah tell Dad that someone from some Syrian museum will be here in the morning, a friend of his. Something tells me that Dad and Dr. Lineman will be getting no sleep tonight. With Dr. Mansoorユs help, they will probably want to photograph the scroll thoroughly in order to do more studying back home.

The adults go back downstairs after dinner, including many of the students. Glen, Julia and I go into Dr. Mansoorユs large living room and lounge around on the cushions. I wish Iユd brought a book because when we turn the TV on, itユs all Arabic and it most of it looks like news. One station has an outdoor concert with a full orchestra and a man singing catchy Arabic songs. Julia and Glen get into that and watch it until a news show comes on. Then they get back to their discussion of the story of their lives. Glen notices Iユm bored and offers me something from his knapsack -- a thick book about life in Roman times.

I read until Iユm drowsy and next thing I know Iユm being woken up by loud knocking on the front door. The windows that used to brighten up the room are now pitch black and the only reason I can see anything is because someone has turned a lamp on. Even Julia and Glen had fallen asleep.

メIユll see who it is,モ says Glen, getting up. メItユs probably my dad.モ

Heユs right.

Dr. Lineman says a brief hello and then he and his wife rush downstairs after Glen tells him where everyone is.

Steve joins us in the living room.

メHey!モ He says sitting down beside me. メMiss me?モ

メTruthfully? No.モ

メAh, donユt tell me youユve been having fun all by yourself with these two lovebirds here in front of you,モ he says nodding towards Julia and Glen. They blush, but they donユt get mad and just decide to ignore him. With Steve, thatユs probably the best strategy.

メActually, I was sleeping,モ I say. メAnd itユs my plan to carry on.モ

The room is cool now, but someone has left us a pile of blankets on one of the cushions, so I grab one, pull it over me and stretch back out on the floor.

メI canユt believe I came all the way to Damascus to sleep,モ says Steve.

メLike you had any choice in the matter,モ I mumble. メYour parents made you come.モ

Steve sighs and grabs a blanket and a cushion.

メSleep it is.モ

 

We wake up when the light starts coming into the room. I donユt think the adults have gotten any sleep because now I can hear them all talking in the dining room.

For breakfast there is a platter of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, some pita bread and a big bowl of fruit yoghurt. I take a bit of everything and also try some of the mint tea in a large pot.

Mom gives us a big smile and I take a seat beside her.

After breakfast, everybody gets a chance to change into a fresh set of clothes because the representative from the Syrian museum is going to be here, as well as a reporter from the national newspaper.

メHow do we know the guy is from the museum?モ Steve is saying to anyone who will listen. メI mean, some guy could have heard about the scroll, decides heユs going to have it for himself, bumps off the museum guy and comes impersonating him. And we like dummies, hand it over.モ

Some of the students think heユs funny, others seem kind of scared by him.

Dr. Mansoor puts an end to all of Steveユs speculation.

メDr. Hasan is an old friend of mine. Heユs been in charge of antiquities at the museum for more than twenty years. As you will see, he would be very difficult to impersonate.モ

Dr. Hasan comes shortly after breakfast and Dr. Mansoor is right. Heユs quite a character.

Heユs 5ユ4モ, about sixty years old, with wild bushy grey hair and a lively personality. Even Steve seems subdued in his presence.

メYes?! It is a big find, yes?!モ He shakes Dr. Linemanユs and Dadユs hands. All the ladies receive a theatrical bow as they are introduced. He turns back to Dad and Dr. Lineman. メYes! You are now big archaeologist, yes?! How you say, household name? You will be famous here in Syria, yes? TV interviews? Yes? Well now, let me see! Let me see this wonderful scroll I have heard so much about! Perhaps I will become a Christian too after hearing all about it.モ

Christian too? It takes me a few moments to realize what he means. Then it dawns on me. Abdullah is also a friend of Dr. Hasan. Heユs the one who contacted Dr. Hasan. Abdullah must have become a Christian!

Once again, the adults are back downstairs with the scroll. I wonder how little Dr. Hasan is expected to take care of such an important find. I mean, maybe Steveユs right. Maybe someone will try to bump him off . . .

But then I look out the front window and I see the car that Dr. Hasan came in. Itユs not big, but the chauffeur who drove it is. Heユs about 6ユ6モ with some serious bulging muscles. Of course, Steve comes up with some elaborate story about the guy only being employed by Dr. Hasan about two months and heユs really a member of the Mossad whoユs going to take off with the scroll as soon as theyユre out of our sight. Never mind that the Mossad has no reason to be interested in a scroll that records one of the stories of Jesus.

I sigh and return to the floor with the book Iユve borrowed from Glen. Julia and Glen have turned on the TV and are watching an Arabic kidユs show with puppets and singing. Steve makes fun of the show, then he makes fun of Julia and Glen for watching the show, then he sits down and watches it with them.

At ten oユclock the reporter arrives and goes downstairs to take pictures. After talking with Dr. Mansoor and our dads, there is a group photo in the living room. Dr. Hasan and the scroll leave shortly after that. Then it is time for us to say our good-byes to Dr. Mansoor and head back to Tadmor.

Steve seems immensely disappointed that nothing traumatic has happened.



 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

 

 

 

W

ell, the archaeological dig is over for us.

It carries on for another month for Dr. Lineman and the students but Dad has been asked to begin promoting the scroll. As if it needs any promotion!

The Syrian national newspaper got an exclusive, but after that, the scroll made headlines all over the world. Now scholars and Christians are demanding more information and since Dr. Lineman has to carry on with the dig, Dad is the one whoユs going back to North America to discuss the scroll in about a million interviews.

As we pack our bags in our hotel room, Iユm relieved that Iユll never see Steve again. Julia and Glen arenユt so thrilled but theyユre bravely promising each other that theyユll write and keep in touch.

Abdullah drives us to the airport in Damascus. Itユs an exaggeration to say that he has become a Christian. But heユs very interested in learning more.

On the long drive, heユs telling Dad and Mom that heユs going to read more of Jesusユs stories and then maybe read some books about the history of Christianity in Syria. Dad and Mom answer a lot of his questions about Christianity and the Bible.

メBut this resurrection Iユve heard about, it is a myth, yes?モ

メNo, Abdullah, itユs not. Itユs a historical fact. The Jewish leaders at that time tried to cover it up and say that the disciples stole the body, but that would have been impossible. Jesus was in a sealed tomb, guarded by Roman soldiers and at that time the disciples were hiding out in fear after being associated with a leader who was crucified,モ Dad says. He loves this topic. メAfter his resurrection, Mary Magdalene met Jesus outside the tomb and told her to go tell the disciples what had happened. When they returned, they found the tomb empty.モ

メWhat happened to the soldiers guarding the tomb?モ asks Abdullah.

メThe Jewish leaders paid them to say they fell asleep. A bunch of nonsense. Any Roman soldier caught sleeping on the job would have been executed. When Jesus rose from the dead there was a great earthquake and a couple of angels rolled away the stone in front of the tomb. The soldiers fled in terror. In fact, thatユs just one of the many humorous things about the story. The ladies came to the tomb thinking that they could anoint Jesusユs body with spices. Instead, they encounter an angel sitting on the stone that had been rolled away telling them heユs not here, heユs risen.モ

メVery interesting,モ says Abdullah. メI must read more about this, too.モ

Dad agrees. メIt was the greatest day in history.モ

When we get to the airport, Abdullah waits with us while we check in our baggage. When it is clear that our flight is going to leave on time, he hugs Dad, shakes Momユs hand and kind of grins at me and Julia. Then he leaves with promises to email.

We board our plane and settle in for the long flight. The scroll stays in Syria but weユre taking back so many memories.

I open up my knapsack.

A note falls out.

メYour assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to make contact with an antiquities dealer in North America and negotiate a more than fair price for the scroll. (Enough to afford a small surfing hut somewhere in Caribbean with enough left over to live on until Iユm old enough to join the Canadian Central Intelligence Services.) I will work on this end to re-acquire the scroll and smuggle it out at the earliest possible time. Together we can fight against the forces of tyranny and injustice. Yours in espionage, Steve.モ

 

 

THE END


 


 

The Kent family adventures

 

The Treasure of Tadmor

The Strange sketch of Sutton

The Hunt for the cave of Moravia

The Search for the sword of Goliath

The Buried gold of Shechem

The Cache of Baghdad

The Walls of Jerusalem

The Missionaryユs Diary

 

 

 

 

Other novels by Jennifer Keogh Armstrong

 

The society for the betterment of mankind

Revolution in C Minor

Pink gin

Somewhere between Longview and Miami

Last king of Damascus

The unlikely association of Meg and Harry