ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Froomes graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and
Surgery from Monash University in 1989 and completed a post-graduate degree in
liver research from Melbourne University in 2001.
He has published research papers in peer-reviewed medical
journals and has presented research at national and international conferences.
He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife, Caroline,
and three children, Charlie, Emma and Oscar, where he is currently working as a
physician in both public and private practice.
Osiris Ring is his fourth novel.
Violet shadows sifted across
the white-washed minarets of Giza as the ginger sun plunged behind the west bank
of the Nile. With the sinking of the sun, cool drafts of air languidly rolled in
off the river. Haunting echoes of a hundred Mullahs ebbed and flowed on the
breeze, calling the faithful to prayer.
Tray returned to his desk, collapsing into the wooden desk chair. He tapped the keyboard and began dictating to the voice recognition software on his computer. Beads of moisture trickled through his salt-blond hair. He reached for his coffee mug. It was empty. Cohen cursed.
Poised at the pinnacle of his post doctorate in ancient Egyptology, Cohen was about to make history. With a physician’s meticulousness, he had dissected through eons of Egyptian history in his ruthless pursuit of lost medical remedies. The task had been Herculean, but so had been his effort. In a yet-to-be-discovered, underground chamber in the ruins of the palace of Amenhotep III in Luxor (ancient Thebes), he hoped to make his monumental find.
Soon, the final clue that would unlock the secret of one of ancient Egypt’s most astounding medical cures would be revealed. Tomorrow, God willing, would be his time to unleash it to the world. Unimaginable wealth, academic accolades and a Nobel Prize would be his.
Cohen dictated the final clue into his thesis. ‘Print!’ he barked at the computer. Now, the record of his dramatic research was complete. Although his thesis had already been published, it contained nothing of his recent discovery. This final copy was the only copy that contained any clue to his discovery. He inserted the new pages into the hard copy of his thesis and clutched it to his chest. This was his insurance policy. He hoped he would never need to use it.
Cohen placed the thesis inside a secure postal package, addressed and stamped it – priority paid. All he had to do was place it in the post box next to the university on his way out and it would make its way into safe hands in America.
A chill rippled through him and with it a premonition of foreboding. Cohen bit his tongue. ‘Stop being paranoid!’ he hissed, trying to pull himself together.
Cohen was a cardiologist, a heart specialist, but nothing in his training could explain the strange constellation of symptoms that plagued him now. He decided it must have been stress. Or a curse! He grimaced.
The cracked off-white plaster walls and low wooden ceiling of his office closed in around him as if swallowing him. Like an insect peering out from inside a glass jar, Cohen observed the world outside through a mental haze.
With his cardiology practise on hold, Cohen had pursued his degree in Archaeology and Egyptology at the university with a passion that had surprised even him. And now, six years later, with an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree behind him, Cohen was fast becoming an authority in ancient Egyptology and medicine. As he stood on the verge of making the ultimate historical breakthrough, he felt only fear. What he was about to unearth would be so valuable that any medical intelligence agency would kill to get it.
Cohen had seen fear. In fact, he had induced it many times in the laboratory rats he’d used in his cardiac research. Animals had an innate awareness of danger. They could tell when he was simply going to feed them or weight them, but they could also tell when he was going to sacrifice them. It had irked him as they squirmed and squealed in his grip, terrified, sensing his murderous intent. So much so, in fact, that he’d taken to wearing a mask just to disguise his expression, but somehow the animals always knew. The same feelings that his animals had gone through were now racking him too.
Since making his discovery, while researching his thesis on a pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, things had started to go wrong. His home had been burgled, his car jacked, his briefcase stolen and his office ransacked. It had been systematic.
The local police had been useless, so Cohen had been forced to watch his own back. Cohen’s supervisor, Professor Hanna, the Dean of Archaeology and Egyptology, had been unconvinced by Cohen’s theories and remained dismissive and sceptical. But Cohen hadn’t revealed all of his work. He did not know whom he could trust.
The key findings he had kept to himself. To Professor Hanna, the American cardiologist was just another Westerner with crackpot ideas about ancient Egyptology.
This scepticism drove Cohen harder. He worked night and day, to the exclusion of his wife, his life and his practice, and even it seemed his health.
Determined not to give in to his doubts, he switched off the light in his study and hurried out the door.
A gust of bone-dry wind, laced with fine sand struck his face. Cohen’s fair complexion did not suit the arid climate of Egypt, but he loved the exotic culture and he’d fallen in love with an Egyptian. Egypt was now his home. He dropped the package in the nearby post office box and hurried through the streets towards the library. He needed to examine the photographs of the ancient pharaoh Amenhotep III’s palace, which were housed there before he returned to Luxor for his planned triumph, and he wanted to get to the airplane hangar before dark.
With his shirt collar pulled up around his ears, Cohen dived into the waves of human traffic rolling through the streets. Throngs of people, some in Muslim robes and others in suits, pushed past him from all sides.
‘Doesn’t anybody have a car around here?’ he complained. Beside him the incessant tooting of a car horn on the road caused him to pause.
‘Dr Cohen, Dr Cohen, can I give you a ride?’ a woman called from the passenger’s seat of a black limousine. She beckoned to him with her hand.
Cohen peered at the woman and smiled when he recognised her. ‘That’d be great.’ Cohen pushed his way to the kerbside.
Before he could reach for the door handle he felt a thick hand clamped vice-like across his face. The acrid smell of chloroform filled his nostrils. His knees buckled and he collapsed into the open door of the car.
Two men shoved Cohen’s unconscious body across the back seat. They disappeared into the restless traffic of Cairo.
Prices in Australian Dollars
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