The Templar Cross

The Templar Cross by Paul Christopher

Book: The Templar Cross by Paul Christopher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Christopher
Tags: Fiction, Historical
    “I’m an archaeologist, not a historian,” said Rafi.
    “You’re just embarrassed because old Faraj here showed you up.”
    “Yes, well,” said Rafi primly, “I can actually read the Rosetta Stone. Can you?”
    “Touché,” Holliday said and laughed.
    “Nelson was at Abu Qir two hundred years ago. What’s there now?” Rafi asked.
    “As I recall it’s the home of the Egyptian navy, or a big part of it at least. A few frigates and a lot of fast patrol boats, Russian and Chinese mostly.” Holliday shrugged. “I think the Alexandria fishing fleet docks there as well.”
    “Why would this Abu Ibrahim fellow want to be around the Egyptian navy?” Rafi asked. “The Israeli navy spends half its time chasing smugglers. You’d think Ibrahim would want to be anywhere else but where the navy hung out.”
    “Who knows?” Holliday shrugged. “Maybe he’s enlisted sailors to smuggle for him.”
    Abu Qir was effectively the eastern suburbs of Alexandria, a “village” of old Soviet-style apartment blocks, newer hotels along the water and the original, cramped town of tumbledown stucco-sided buildings crammed in between the old and the new. On the other side of the railway lines that split Abu Qir down the middle were the relatively modern naval base on the peninsula, the old fishing harbor beside it and at the south-eastern end of town the huge, ultramodern campus of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport.
    Behind the fishing harbor was a large barren area of waste ground known as Lord’s Land. A single broad roadway, lined with more deteriorating slab concrete apartment blocks and old rusting sheet-metal warehouses, led down to the fishing harbor and the sea.
    To the left a crumbling concrete quay ran past a yard filled with piles of steel pipe and stacks of oil drums. To the right was a line of rusting warehouses and a haphazard clustered school of small trawlers and other workboats at anchor or drawn up on the mudflats at the east side of the harbor. The air was thick with the stink of the tidal ooze and rotting fish. It was almost midday and the waterfront had a bleak, abandoned look.
    The Citroën drove directly to the docks and parked on the quay opposite an ancient wooden-hulled tugboat moored with heavy lines fore and aft. Once upon a time the ship had been black and red with a white superstructure. Now it was simply filthy, dark with accumulated grime. Faraj parked the taxi behind a screening skip loaded with what looked like bags of fertilizer. The wooden nameplate above the wheelhouse door of the tug was in Arabic script.
    “Khamsin,” said Faraj. He pursed his lips and made a whooshing noise.
    “A Khamsin is a wind from the Sahara,” offered Rafi. “I think that’s the boat’s name.”
    “Wind, yes,” Faraj said, nodding happily.
    The trunk of the Citroën popped open and the man in the white shirt got out of the car. He went to the trunk of the big sedan and lifted out an old-fashioned briefcase. He crossed the quay to a gangplank leading to the tug and stepped across it quickly. He dropped down onto the deck, walked aft to the companionway ladder and climbed up to the wheelhouse. It didn’t look as though there was anyone else on board. The man opened the wheelhouse door and disappeared inside. Two minutes later he reappeared without the briefcase, climbed down the companionway ladder and went back across the gangplank to the Citroën. He got in, started the engine and drove off, heading farther along the quay.
    “Follow?” Faraj asked.
    Holliday turned to Rafi.
    “I’d love to see what’s in that briefcase,” said Rafi.
    “Me too,” Holliday said.
    “Follow?” Faraj asked again.
    Holliday shook his head.
    “Wait,” he instructed.
    “I wait. Certainly, excellent,” their young driver said as he nodded. He picked up the newspaper from the seat beside him, leaned back and dropped the paper across his face. Holliday and Rafi

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