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A promise kept

June 26, 2018

Well, as I said, I am posting another unpublished story from the many I have written. Selling shorts, as I call them, is a tedious business. I write in the old style. The pulp magazine style so to speak. Action and adventure with a little bit of mystery is my game. I like to write this way but a some publishers are not in vogue with this. Why? Well, they have to buy what will sell their magazines and if the story isn’t in the now, well…

Not all publishers are this way though. One I have sold too, Crimson Streets is one of them. They like the old time stories with villains an hero’s. Also some bad guys who make out in the end. Anyway, here is one for your reading enjoyment called the “Temple of Al-Amon.” It takes place in the 1930’s when archeologists were discovering the wealth of the pharoses. Hope you enjoy.     This is the first twenty pages, the rest will follow next week.

The Temple of Al-Amon
By
Ike Keen

 

Dixon sat at the bar in Cairo and swirled the last of the bourbon around in his glass. Eight weeks he had spent in the heat of the Great Sand Sea and came back with nothing. Eight Weeks! He should have known the man who had hired him to lead them was nothing more than a swindler. He had trusted Muhammad-Jamar, another thing he shouldn’t have done, who swore the map was real.
“The map is real,” Jamar had told him, “if you do not believe me, take it to old Atalla, he will tell you.”
Dixon grunted and sipped some of the liquor. He had done just that and after a few minutes, Atalla agreed.
“It’s genuine,” he had said in broken English, “where you get it?”
“From the man who wants me to lead them to the temple.”
Atalla shook his head. “This temple, she is not what all think it is. Many have gone into the temple and never come back. It is said they were trapped in the temple by the very god it is named after. Trapped for eternity to be the playthings of Al-Amon.”
Dixon shook his head. He had heard tales of the temple from the elders who lived in Cairo. Tales that told of a fortune in gold and jewels. Tribute paid by the tribes to keep the demi-god happy. It was the Romans who ended the tribute. Their armies going after the riches and encountering a temple army that nearly wiped them out.
Yet, before this happened, it is said that a general whose name has been lost, prayed to his Gods for intervention. What came was a band of nomads, thousands of them, roaring down on the temple and siding with the Romans. They beat the temple army back and some of his men and the nomads gained entry.
The general himself was about to breach the doors when the High Priest of Al-Amon appeared, his hands raised, his voice called out like thunder in a language the general could not fathom.
The ground seemed to heave up as he spoke, men falling as they tried to flee. Then, before his eyes, the temple seemed to shimmer, grow hazy and then fade away. Everyone left the place, the nomads in fear, the general in defeat.
As Dixon remembered the story he drained the last of the bourbon from his glass and set it down. Most of these stories were bullshit. Each time the tales were told, they varied in tone. Sometimes the temple disappeared. Sometimes the ground opened and swallowed the invaders.
“Tales told for the tourist,” Dixon muttered. Dixon was no tourist, though, and when Atalla told him the map was real, he figured maybe his lucky break had come. Dixon had been on a few expeditions over the years. He had lived in Cairo most of his life, his father an explorer and from an early age, and Dixon learned the lands around Cairo and the Great Sand Sea.
There were treasures out there. Some buried deep beneath the sands. Others in the rock ridges that ran in places in the desert. Each time he was hired it was by some enthusiastic soul who had been told by one of the curio shop owners it was the real deal. Most weren’t, but a few were real.
Dixon sighed. The bartender, a swarthy fellow who wore a fez, nodded at his glass and Dixon waved him off. He should have kept the map with him when they traveled into the desert. Jamar objected as did his benefactor, Jeffery Carter.
Carter claimed to be a professor at the University of Cambridge. He was here to search for the temple and put to rest the myth that the temple wasn’t real. He had met with Carter just before they left, telling him that Jamar couldn’t be trusted.
“Jamar is a thief and a killer. Take my word for it, once he gets us out in the desert, he will have men waiting. Let me carry the map and we’ll get to your temple.” Dixon told Carter.
Carter refused. “Jamar told me that you were the one to be watched. No, I trust Jamar and he has sworn to Allah he will not betray me. He says you are nothing but a treasure hunter and will maroon us in the Great Sand Sea to seek the temple yourself.”
The treasure hunter part was true. Dixon had, over the years, searched and found various lost treasures for certain clients. He had been paid well for this but he had never killed to gain the treasure for himself.
Before they left, Dixon confronted Jamar. There was a heated argument and Jamar told Dixon, “Keep eyes in the back of your head, Dixon. The desert is wide and deadly. Men have died and only their bleached bones found in the blazing sun.”
Dixon let out a sigh and started to dismount the stool he was sitting on. At least he was still alive, Jamar had failed to carry out his threat. Dixon was halfway off the stool when a hand clamped down on his shoulder and pushed him back down. Dixon jerked his head around and looked into the eyes of a man whom he had known for a few years in Cairo.
Brian McFerrin grinned at him, his blue eyes flashed and his smile widened. McFerrin was a broad-shouldered, thick-chested man with hands as big as post mauls and just as hard. His face was darkly browned by the desert sun and looked like leather, deeply lined. His beard and hair were red, the beard covering the most of his face to hide the various scars he carried on his cheeks and chin.
“Leaving so soon?” McFerrin said, his hand squeezing Dixon’s shoulder. Dixon shrugged it off and turned to face McFerrin.
“I am now,” Dixon growled.
“Whoa, don’t be so unfriendly lad, what are you drinking?”
Dixon glared at him for a few minutes. He and McFerrin had had troubles from time to time. Some of them ending in fights.
“Come on Dix, don’t be that way. I know we’ve butted heads from time to time, but you might want to listen to what I have to say.” McFerrin motioned to the bartender and pointed to Dixon’s glass. “Another of what he is drinking.”
Once the bourbon was poured, McFerrin raised his glass and motioned to Dixon. Dixon paused for a moment then remounted the stool, picked up the glass and motioned to McFerrin. They drank, McFerrin downing his. Dixon downed his and McFerrin motioned to the bartender again.
He turned to Dixon and asked, “I hear that piece of camel dung Jamar screwed you?”
Dixon nodded as McFerrin downed the drink.
“How’d you like to get even?”
Dixon had started to take a drink and stopped. His eyes narrowed and he set his glass down slowly.
“What were you told?” Dixon asked.
“Oh, I was told you went off in search of the Temple of Al-Amon. That some professor and Jamar had a map and hired you to guide them.” McFerrin cocked an eye at Dixon and Dixon grunted.
“Is that true?” McFerrin asked.
“It is, but we never got to the temple, Jamar had a bunch of nomads waiting when we got halfway. They came in the night after we pitched camp. The men who were with us were part of Jamar’s men. I barely got away alive.”
“And this Carter?”
Dixon shrugged. “If he did get away, he’s probably dead by now. I tried to find him during the attack but Jamar’s men kept me busy. I took off and right after that, a sandstorm came up.”
McFerrin nodded and leaned in close and spoke low.
“How would you like to try to find the temple again?”
Dixon leaned back and looked at McFerrin, his eyes narrowed.
“How Carter had the map and I’m sure Jamar has it so….”
“What if there was another one?”
“Another map?”
McFerrin nodded.
“A fellow by the name of Sweet came to me a few days back. Said he had a map to the temple. I questioned him and he said it was authentic. I told him to prove it and he took me to a man who showed me the map. A fellow by the name of Richter. He had been flying over the Sand Sea at night and noticed a group of buildings toward the eastern edge of the desert. He flew low and tried to get a look at them but a wind came up and nearly knocked him out of the sky. He went back during the day and couldn’t find them. He did spot what looked like a tent so he found a place to land and went to where the tent was.
“The tent was a ragged piece of canvas half buried in the sand and inside it was a skeleton, the skull had a bullet hole in it and one arm pointed in the direction he had seen the buildings. He said he started in the direction and found a few more skeletons, one had a tin box under his outstretched hand. In the box was part of a map and a ring with the initials J.C. inside the band.
“Richter told him he had started to follow the map but he felt someone watching him and he shook it off. Then the wind started to pick up and before he got back to his plane, he could see the sandstorm building. He barely got away.”
“So how does he know it is the true map to the temple?” Dixon asked.
“Because when he went to a jeweler to sell the ring and show him the partial map, the old fellow told him he would buy the ring but he should toss the map. There was a woman in the shop who came over and asked if she could see the map. After she looked at it, she wanted to know if she could hire him to fly over the direction in which they went to see if she could locate him. He said yes and was supposed to take her but….”
“But what?” Dixon asked.
McFerrin shrugged, “He went back later before he agreed and did another flyby at night. He said he could see the buildings and flew low to get a better look and was met with a shower of arrows. One of them penetrated his cockpit and hit him in the leg. He went down in the desert and some nomads found him.”
“What happened to the map?” Dixon growled leaning closer.
“He lost it when he was wounded, the map was torn from his hand by the wind of the plane. He drew his own map and contacted Sweet. He told Sweet about the temple and told him to contact Miss Darby. She was the one who wanted to hire him.”
“Did he contact her?”
“Yes, she was very evasive at first but Richter showed her the map, the map he drew from memory. He told her it was on the far eastern edge of the Sand Sea hidden between a sand Dune and the ridge. Sweet said from the looks of it, it was carved out of the ridge face.”
Dixon sat silent. Even though he and McFerrin had their differences, both trusted each other. Both had covered each other’s backs many a time.
“Well?” McFerrin said bringing Dixon from his thoughts.
“What about Jamar, is he still alive?”
“That I don’t know,” McFerrin said, “but we both know if he is and gets wind of this, he will be on our trail.”
Dixon smiled and nodded. Yes, that was what Dixon hoped.
***
The Great Sand Sea covers 650 km to the north and south and another 300 km to the east and west. It is a desolate area with ridges running roughly in a north-south direction. Only the Tuaregs dared travel the dunes. They have done it for generations crossing it with caravans from Libya and other places to deliver fine silks and spices to the peoples of Egypt.
Dixon had been across it once. Traveled with a Tuareg to Libya on a quest to free the Tuareg’s brother from a Libyan warlord. Dixon knew the routes, knew where all the pitfalls and quicksand traps were. Where they were headed, though, he had little knowledge. His route had taken him mostly to the south, the temple was supposed to be to the north.
He told McFerrin this and McFerrin shrugged.
“Not to worry my lad. Richter has a map, a very accurate one. Between the three of us, I do believe we can find this temple.”
“I suspect the woman is going also?”
McFerrin chuckled and nodded. “She will be. Sara Darby. She was Jeffery Carter’s assistant when he worked at the college.”
“So, she knows about the temple.”
“She does. She and Carter searched out every bit of information they could find about it, which wasn’t a lot.”
Dixon grunted and helped load the last of the supplies on the two camels they had bought. Dixon had tried to haggle the price down but the man was stubborn, shaking his head no at each offer. McFerrin finally paid him and the man blessed them and told them to come back again. McFerrin told him what he could do with himself and he wouldn’t be back if he was the last man with camels in the city.
They headed north, toward the more expensive section of Cairo. Here they passed cars that shined like new, the drivers wiping the dust from them.
“I took a job as a driver once,” McFerrin said as they walked toward a house surrounded by a wall, “It was for a Sheik. Abdul something or the other. He paid well but I had to give it up.”
Dixon laughed and McFerrin smiled. He had to give it up alright, especially after the Sheik caught McFerrin fooling around with his daughter. McFerrin left Cairo for a while, the price on his head being fifty thousand American plus proof it was really him the bounty hunters were collecting on. The proof being his head and his balls.
At the wall, they stopped at a wrought iron gate and McFerrin pushed a button beside it. After a few minutes, a servant came and McFerrin spoke to him. He nodded and opened the gate. Once inside, another man took the camels and the one who let them in motioned them to follow him.
They entered the house through an open doorway and walked down a short hall, a breeze blowing cool on them as they entered a courtyard with palms and flowers of all kinds growing in it. A tiled floor lay under their feet and in the middle of the courtyard was a fountain, water spewing from the top and cascading over into the larger bowls under the top one.
Making a turn, the servant led them to a spot where the palms shaded part of the tiled floor. Under the palms were three people. One was a burly fellow, a shaggy mustache on his face and dressed in khaki clothes. A pistol was strapped around his waist and he wore a desert cap with a long tail down the back to cover his neck to keep it from getting sunburned.
His face was as brown as leather and deeply lined. His eyes were sunken, the brows dark as his hair. This was Sweet. Dixon had heard of him but never met him. Beside him sat a woman. Even sitting one could tell she was tall and willowy. She wore khaki like Sweet but it fit her more tightly, outlining the curve of her body. She had an oval face, her chin small, her nose pixie-like, her dark hair was tied up in the back. When she smiled, her teeth were white and even. If she were on an auction block, she would bring a hefty price. She rose and extended her hand toward Dixon, the hand slightly calloused but still soft.
“I’m Sara Darby. I suspect you are Conner Dixon,” she said, her voice having a musical tone to it. Dixon nodded and shook her hand. “I suspect you know Sweet?”
“I’ve heard of him but never met him.” Dixon nodded at Sweet. Sweet nodded back but didn’t rise or shake Dixon’s hand.
“This is Brian McFerrin, Dixon’s partner.” Sara pointed a McFerrin and Sweet grunted.
“I know him,” Sweet spoke in a low tone, his eyes glaring at McFerrin.
McFerrin held out a hand and Sweet smirked. McFerrin was about to make a comment and Dixon jabbed an elbow in his side shaking his head. McFerrin glared at him for a second then shrugged.
“And this is Richter,” Sara said quickly, stepping aside and giving Sweet a dark look. Richter started to rise but didn’t, a pained look coming on his face. He was a lanky man, toned of muscle with a lean face. He wore the uniform of an American flying squadron. His shoulder patch was an eagle diving, claws bared with a flaming ring around it.
“Sorry old man.” His voice was accented with English. “Ever since that plane crash I have a hard time standing.”
Dixon shook his hand he extended while Richter sat. Richter motioned for them to sit as the servant brought out two more chairs.
“I must say, I appreciate you chaps helping Sara and Mr. Sweet out on the expedition. I understand, Mr. Dixon, you have traveled the Great Sand Sea in depth?”
“I’ve crossed it a few times yes,” Dixon answered.
“Good, so has Mr. Sweet. He has traveled mostly to the west and some to the north which is where the temple is supposed to be located. With the both of you along, I’m sure you will be able to search out and find the bugger.”
“And Professor Carter, or what is left of him,” Sara said. There was a slight quaver in her voice when she said this and Dixon picked it up.
“We’ll do our best,” Dixon said, “I suppose we’ll start tomorrow?”
“Quite right. Tonight, you will enjoy my hospitality and sleep in a soft bed for I doubt such will be on the journey.” Richter pushed himself up from the chair, straining with every muscle as he did. Once on his feet, he let out a long breath and shook his head.
“Wrenched my back out of place on my last flight to the temple. The bloody devils shot me with arrows and caused my plane to malfunction. I slammed down hard on the sand and was trapped in the cockpit for a few days. It’s a good thing those nomads came along or I do believe I would have died out there.” Richter shuffled off toward the house, a servant close behind him. McFerrin looked at Dixon and Dixon nodded. The pain wasn’t his back for Richter favored the leg, a slight limp following each step.
Dixon looked back to the group and he noticed Sweet eyeing him closely. Even behind those dark brows, Dixon could tell the man didn’t like him. He was about to say something when Sara stood, motioned toward the house and said, “Please follow me, dinner will be ready in a bit so I suspect you would like to freshen up.”
She walked past them and Dixon noticed Sweet leering at her. Before he could stand and follow her, Dixon stood and stepped in front of him. He heard a soft grunt from Sweet and smiled as they went toward the house.
***
In the city of Cairo, the streets come alive at night. Clubs and cafes were full of every kind of nationality. Every kind of evil and despicable act. Shady deals were hatched and for the right price, men could disappear without a trace.
Here, the streets were quiet. Just the soft breeze blowing through the palms and the scent of flowers drawn in on it. Dixon stood by his window and thought about what had happened in their first meeting with Sweet and Richter. He had heard of Sweet, had heard dark tales about his dealings. Of men who had met with Sweet then turned up in a dark alley, dead.
Dixon nodded to himself. The man would bear keeping an eye on. He was about to go to bed when there was a knock at his door. He stepped over to the bed, slipped the automatic out of its holster hanging on the bedpost and walked to the door.
“Come in,” he said in a soft voice. The door opened and a tall, willowy figure slipped in, closing the door quickly and leaning against it. Sara stood there, her robe loosely tied around her. Dixon started to speak but she held a finger to her lips and jerked her thumb at the door. In the quiet, he could hear soft footsteps walk up to the door and stop. Sara’s eyes were wide when the door handle turned a little then stopped.
Whoever was on the other side was listening, waiting to see if any noise could be heard in his room. He pulled Sara away from the door and stepped back, motioning for her to move behind him. Slowly the handle turned again, this time the latch clicked and the door popped open a bit. Dixon braced himself, waited for the door to open some more so he could see who was on the other side.
Suddenly there was a yell from out in the hall. Dixon grabbed the door handle and jerked it open, the body of a man staggering in. Dixon raised the pistol and brought it down. It landed on the intruder’s head but did little good, his turban softening the blow. Shaking his head, the man darted past Dixon, the flash of metal catching Dixon’s eye. He jerked to the side, the curved dagger slicing his shirt and making a red welt on his side.
Dixon caught his balance and spun, the man headed toward the window. He yelled, took a few steps forward. The man stopped and drew back his arm to throw the knife. Dixon fired, the pistol blast loud in the room. The man’s eyes widened, a low whine escaped his lips. The knife clattered to the floor as he fell out the window in silence. Dixon ran to the window and looked out then jerked back as the flash of a pistol cut the darkness, a bullet smacked the window sill above his head.
He ducked back and waited, then peeked over the sill. Nothing moved in the darkness below his window and when he dared look farther, nobody lay below. Suddenly, a voice sounded behind him, the voice of Richter, out of breath and trembling a little. Sara gasped as Richter fell into the room, an ugly cut on the side of his head. Dixon was about to go to him when voices sounded in the yard below his window.
“Dixon, Dixon you bloody alright?” It was McFerrin. Dixon leaned out the window and gave him a wave then ducked back in and went to where Sara was leaning over Richter and holding his head.
“Did you get him?” Richter asked.
Dixon knelt beside him and checked Richter over. He had more than a cut on his head. A red spot was growing on his side. One of the servants came in then, his eyes wide as Dixon pointed at his employer’s side. Sara let out a little gasp and tried to get a closer look, Dixon stopped her and nodded at the servant who turned and ran to get help.
“I did,” Dixon said answering his question, “what happened?”
“I was asleep,” Richter said in a strained voice, “suddenly I felt someone clap his hand over my mouth and a hissing voice asked where the map was. He said if I didn’t tell him he would make me. I guess he thought I was a complete cripple but he suddenly found out I wasn’t. I reached out and grabbed an ashtray on the nightstand and slammed it against his head. He had on a turban though and the blow only shook him. He growled and stabbed me in the side then left me for dead.
“He went to the door and opened it a crack, I was readying myself to throw the ashtray when I saw Sara go by the crack. He watched and I guess when she went into your room, he slipped out into the hall. I then started getting up. Curse this malady! I couldn’t get up fast enough so I yelled out.”
Richter coughed, blood spattered his lips and he groaned.
“The map is in my room. In a lockbox.” He fumbled at his neck and Sara helped him with what he was fumbling for. It was a key. He jerked it hard and broke the chain, reached up and handed the key to Dixon.
“Box is in the closet…left corner of the floor,” he gasped out and coughed again. “Take it and find the temple. Find the jewels that are there.”
“Jewels?” Dixon said.
“Yes, the Tears of….” Richter gasped, arched his back and let out a slow breath and died.
***
The police questioned Dixon the most. The man who did it was a short half Egyptian, half French gentlemen by the name of Edward. They had found the body of the intruder he had shot and the knife he had stabbed Richter with but he wanted to know why the intruder was here. Sara answered that question.
“Mr. Richter was a man who dealt in antiquities. He was probably here to steal some of them.”
“Is that true Mr. Dixon?” Edward asked him.
Dixon shrugged and said, “I guess, I was just hired today to go on an expedition for him.”
“And where was this expedition to?”
“Somewhere in the north of the Great Sand Sea,” Dixon answered.
Edward smiled and shook his head. “Would he not have been sending you in search of the Temple of Al-Amon?”
“I don’t know. He was going to tell us where in the morning.” Dixon glanced at Sara and she let a slight smile cross her face.
“Well, looks as if this is a case of simple burglary. I hope you will be more careful in Cairo Mr. Dixon, especially if it is the place I asked about.” Edward had a sly smile on his face and his eyes were locked on Dixon.
“And the reason would be?” Dixon asked returning the smile.
“Because the temple is said to house the Tears of Allah. No doubt you have heard of them.”
“I have.”
“Well, either way, the temple and they are nothing but a myth. Adieu Mr. Dixon, Miss Darby.” Edward bowed slightly and exited the room, his officers following. Once they were gone, Dixon stood and closed the door, turned to Sara and walked over to sit down beside her. She looked up at him, her eyes wide and her arms crossed over her chest as if she was cold. Dixon smiled and patted her shoulder.
“Is that why Richter wanted us to search for the temple, for the jewels?” Dixon asked.
“Part of it. I made a deal with him. He gave me the location of the buildings he saw and I would look for them. I also want to look and see if my….” She paused and took a deep breath, “my uncle is still alive. If he had found the temple and was maybe hiding there.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Richter said while he was flying over the buildings, he could see people moving around. He said he flew low over them and he was pelted with arrows from the ground. One had penetrated the skin of his plane and sunk into his leg and jammed the control stick. That was why he crashed in the desert. He would have died if the nomads hadn’t found him.”
“How does Sweet figure into this?”
“Richter owes him a lot of money and Sweet wants part of the loot that is supposed to be in the temple. He told Richter that if he could go, he would cancel his debt.”
“Guess it just got canceled,” Dixon muttered.
“So, what now?” he asked.
“I hope you still plan on going.” Sara gave him a doe-eyed look. “I still want to see if my uncle is still alive and just think, if we find the temple, it will be the archeological find of the century plus the jewels will bring us a fortune.”
“If the Egyptian government doesn’t get them when we come back.”
“Oh,” Sara said smiling, “I have that all worked out.”
***
They decided to travel at night. The desert, this time of the year, was a blast furnace in the daytime. It also kept them from being spotted by the nomads. Some were friendly, others would want tribute because they claimed you were crossing their lands.
“They got no claims here,” McFerrin said as they broke camp near dark, “the buggers just like to steal whatever they can from us poor, defenseless foreigners.”
Sweet chuckled and nodded. “I hear that they like the new rifles which is why I brought a case with me. We can either bargain with them or use them if we get in a pinch.”
Dixon shook his head and secured the last bundle to the camel. The beast grunted and Dixon patted its neck. Yes, the nomads could be a contrary people. Friendly one minute and vicious the next. He had dealt with them from time to time on his travels across the desert, but that was only the tribes who were close to Cairo who came into the city to wheel and deal.
He had been told that those far out in the desert were territorial and any part of the desert belonged to them. He pulled on his coat and grabbed the camel by the reins. The four of them had looked over the map Richter had provided them. It was very detailed, the way marked with well-drawn landmarks, some took a little guessing but as far as he could tell, they were on the right track.
Sweet agreed. “By this map, the oasis is to the northwest. Good thing too. We’re running low on water. Any further and we’ll be rationing.”
Sweet turned and started to walk away. Dixon stopped him.
“The map?” Dixon held out his hand. Sweet grinned, shrugged and handed Dixon the map then walked back to his camel.
“I’d like to put a fist right in that smug puss of his.” McFerrin walked up beside Dixon and watched Sweet walk away.
“You and me both old buddy,” Dixon said. McFerrin walked back to his camel, past Sweet. They locked eyes for a moment, McFerrin hesitating then going on. Dixon just hoped he could keep them from locking horns. He’d have to make sure they stayed separated.
The sun was halfway down as they started off, the light turning the sands a blood red as if it were drawing up all the bloodshed from the battles that had been fought here.
Dixon wondered how many legions of Roman bones lay under their feet. Of explorers searching for the lost treasures and tombs found on parchment paper maps only to find out they had been duped into searching for something that didn’t exist. Such a thought had crossed his mind from the start. Did Richter really see a bunch of buildings or was it the moonlight and the desert playing tricks on his eyes, his imagination seeing what he wanted to see. Maybe something in the plane came loose and wounded his leg. Dixon hoped it wasn’t that. He hoped this wasn’t a wild goose chase.
Off in the distance, a howl sounded. Long and piercing. It rose in tone then ended just as quick as it had started. He heard McFerrin tell Sara it was a Jinn calling out, that he had found a living body and had eaten its soul. Sara told him to shut up. Dixon grinned.
Tales of the Jinn were many, the most popular one was they hid in the sand waiting for an unsuspecting soul to come along. They would pull the passer-by down into the sand, smother them then devour their soul, then strip the flesh from the body and wear it so they could walk among men and claim more victims.
To the east, the moon, round and full was starting to rise, the sand taking on a silver hue, the grains sparkling like diamonds it the light. Dixon suddenly stopped, the sand in front of him shifting. For a moment, the tales of the Jinn flooded his mind as a depression formed in the center. He reached into one of the packs and pulled out an empty can, tossed it on the depression and watched. Sara was beside him, her eyes wide as the can rose then was sucked down into the sand.
“What….” She said in a soft voice moving closer to him. Dixon smiled.
“A Jinn. He was waiting for me to step on the sand so he could suck me under, steal my soul and skin. Now he will crawl into the can and be trapped, just like the old story of Aladdin and the lamp.”
Sara looked at him with wide eyes and Dixon couldn’t help it, he laughed.
“You’re a mean man,” Sara snapped at him.
Dixon chuckled then called over his shoulder. “Quicksand folks. We best get off this dune and find a hard surface to walk on.”
“You sure it isn’t a Jinn?” McFerrin called out in mock fear. Sara glared over her shoulder at him. He stepped back and laughed.
“If looks were bullets I’d be dead.” McFerrin laughed again. Dixon steered clear of the spot and walked down the dune, the ground between the two dunes hard packed. Around dawn, they rounded a corner between the dunes and Dixon spotted a glimmer on the horizon. He pointed. Sweet nodded McFerrin grinned.
“Guess that proves Richter knew what he was talking about,” McFerrin said.
“You mean you didn’t believe him?” Sara asked.
“I had my doubts,” Dixon answered. “The moon can play funny tricks on the mind when one is out here. Mounds of sand look like buildings and people.”
“But the wound in his leg, his crash?” Sara questioned.
“It could have been caused by the plane, something might have come loose and wounded his leg. I guess we were wrong.”
“Damned right you were.” Sara went to her camel, undid a pack and pulled out of it a shaft of wood, dark and feathered on one end, the other tipped with a bronze arrowhead. “He gave this to me unless you men began to have doubts.”
Dixon took the arrow and looked it over best he could in the moonlight. The wood was a dark color, the feathers had some color to them and the arrow head was definitely bronze metal, hammered out, the strike marks visible on it. He handed the arrow to McFerrin who looked it over and then handed it to Sweet. Sweet grunted and started to toss it away but Sara grabbed it from him. Her eyes were narrowed as she slid it back in the pack and closed the pack up. Sweet glared back and Dixon made a note to keep an eye on him.
***

 

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