Darlov, Afghanistan


"That's the end of it." Joel Levy stepped back from the bed of the truck with a sigh of satisfaction. "Now, can we get the hell out of here, Emily? I don't like the look of those clouds. All we need is to get caught in a snowstorm to make this trip a total waste of time."


"It's not been a waste of time," Emily Hudson said as she zipped up her fleece-lined jacket. But Joel was right, the temperature had dropped dramatically in the last hour, and the air had a bite to it. "Just because we didn't find anything that we haven't seen before doesn't mean that those artifacts aren't worth saving. It means something to these people, this country."

"Save the lecture for your class at the university," Joel said. "All I know is that we drove all the way up here into the mountains to this little museum that no one but us seems to give a damn about. And no wonder. Most of those artifacts are less than a hundred years old."


"And you wanted to find Alexander's sword or a new version of the Bible." Emily made a face at him. "And I'm not lecturing you. Do you think I'm nuts? I know it would be hopeless. I don't know how you got your doctorate. You're no scholar, you're an Indiana Jones wannabe."

"You're just jealous." Joel grinned. "You want to be Indiana Jones, too, but you're weighed down by paperwork and responsibility. All that stuff is sapping the joy of life out of you. You should never have taken this job, Emily."


She shrugged. "It needed doing."


"And the U.N. wasn't willing to pay anyone else enough to risk their necks like we do." He corrected himself, "Like you do. After this job, I'm going home to settle down and write my memoirs."


"No publisher would buy it. You're only twenty-seven."


"But I've aged in the last five years I've worked with you. I'll lie a little, embroider a little, and then Spielberg will buy my book for the movies."


"Good luck." Joel was always threatening to quit, but he never did. He had a fine mind, but he was too restless for university work and liked moving from country to country. He'd certainly had enough of that working with Emily. The U.N. sent them to the hot spots and war zones of the world to catalog, verify, and move the contents of museums to special preservation centers until it was considered safe to return the cultural treasures to their home bases. Not only did Joel have a Ph.D. in Archaeology and Antiquities, but he was fluent in Hebrew and several other Middle Eastern languages, making him invaluable to Emily. "But if you stay home, Maggie will make you marry her. No more ships that pass in the night."


He flinched. "Maybe I'll go on one more job with you."


"Is that the last load, Emily?" Al Turner stuck his head out the window from the driver's seat. "We'd better hit it. It looks like snow."


"I'm surrounded by weathermen," Emily said as she turned back to the museum. "That's it, Al. You and Don go on. Joel and I will take one more look around, then follow you in the other truck."

"Don't be too long," Al said. "You don't want to be caught by weather in these hills. I know the U.N. said they'd cleared the area of bandits, but they've been wrong before."

No one knew that better than Emily. She and Joel had almost been blown up in Baghdad when the military had assured them that the area the museum occupied was in a safe zone. Joel swore that the U.N. had pressured the military to make a hasty judgment. The artifacts in that museum had been priceless, and the U.N. had not wanted either theft or damage done as a result of the war effort. It would have been "awkward."

Copyright © 2009 by Johansen Publishing LLP.