Chapter 03 – Mr. Hammer’s Office
In a better office, in a better part of the city, three men sat at a table. Pulleys creaked as a long belt turned a row of fans above their heads. Despite the slowly revolving blades, Mr. Hammer fanned himself with his derby. A servant entered bearing a teapot on a tray, steam wafting from the spout.
Straightening his spectacles, the man with the derby cleared his throat. “Fakeeh…your murder of that peasant has only worsened our situation. If you had threatened him effectively we could have purchased his house, and what lies beneath, easily and cheaply. Instead his widow sold the property to the accursed Dr. Boone. And none of that would have happened if you had ‘negotiated’ a price for the cone in the first place! You should not have offered less, expecting to extract an extra commission! We had been led to believe that you were the most effective fixer in all of Cairo.” Behind him, the servant made a contemptuous gesture. Fakeeh nodded almost imperceptibly in response.
The dark wiry man accepted a cup of tea with a slight bow. A beaming smile spread across his face, somehow at odds with the coiled-spring tension that should have been obvious from his posture. “Forgive me, Honored Hemaar,” he began, casting a warning glance at the servant who had coughed at the word ‘donkey’, “Your exact words to me were ‘That double-crossing bastard should be strangled and thrown in the river!'”
“You knew I didn’t mean that!” His face reddened with anger. “That was-“
“I fail to comprehend how my following your instructions to the letter can be taken for bumbling on my part. In my poor confused state, I blindly adhered to your command that I should not improvise.” He opened his pocket watch and glanced at it idly. “And besides, is it not written in the law of your prophet Moses that one should not bind the mouth of the ox treading the grain? A ‘gratuity’, as you say, is a long-established custom in this land. But I grow weary of this dispute.” He pushed away the untasted cup of tea, subtly refusing the offered hospitality. “There are others, far more appreciative of my talents, who in this very hour would leap at the chance to employ me.” He began to stand.
Hammer slammed his cup down on the table, sputtering in incoherent rage. With an uneasy expression, the servant edged toward the door, ready to make a break for safety. Hammer took a deep breath. “Why you-“
Silent until now, the final man in the room snapped “Hammer! That will suffice! Sit down and hush!” He turned to Fakeeh. “Your pardon, Suh,” he drawled, making a placating gesture. “I see that my deputy has offended you, and that his carpetbagger ways are at the root of our troubles. Now that I have arrived, allow me to make amends by dealin’ with you directly, as a true professional.”
“Ma’leish, as long as I do not see the face of this dog again. If you tell me the exact result that your heart desires, I shall endeavor to bring it about. Provided,” he threw a triumphant grin at Hammer, “that I have no interference.”
“My word of honor on it, Suh. Now, as to our aims, we want to acquire the cone as soon as possible, without further arousin’ the curiosity of Dr. Boone. We also need whatever other artifacts lie beneath that house. Now that Boone’s daughter and the time traveler have arrived, our task becomes far more difficult and dangerous.”
In a final attempt to redeem himself, the carpetbagger interrupted. “The cone was moved to Boone’s house yesterday. We should take this chance to grab it and anything else they’ve already dug up. I have the address…”
The assassin examined the scrap of paper; his heavy eyebrows raised as he recognized the address. He glanced at Hammer for the briefest moment, formulating a plan. “La! No, NO!! That is the house of the Priestess! It would be death to enter there with bad intent. I will choose the time and place…” The paper fluttered to the floor as he strode from the room.
Once outside, Fakeeh smiled to himself, confident that the carpetbagger would rise to the bait.