That night, Nisa sat in a chair in her tent, brow furrowed as she carefully scanned the new artifacts they found in the tomb into her computer system. Her laptop sat next to her and was as slow as Christmas, but it was one her father had given her. He had taken it on all his expeditions and claimed he’d had it for years, but obviously, it couldn’t have been that old. Laptops had only been around in his middle-aged life. Nisa rolled her eyes at the thought; he had probably gotten it for Christmas when she was younger at some point.
Either way, now that he was gone and she followed in his footsteps—literally and figuratively—she couldn’t bring herself to part with it or trade it in for a better one.
Cold, desert air flew toward her and Nisa shivered as someone opened her tent flap and walked in. “Has Bea finished identifying the statue yet?” Nisa asked without looking to see who had walked in. They had worked all afternoon to uncover what they could, especially the face. It had already split halfway down, so Nisa had returned and helped her team separate the two halves and bring the upper half back up to camp, where it was brought to Bea’s tent so she could hopefully identify whatever creature the Egyptians had carved into it.
“I wouldn’t know. I’m not in charge of her or the other workers,” a familiar and comforting voice said.
Nisa smiled and elation filled her as her best friend, Oliver, sat backward in a chair and slid it over beside her. “I was wondering if I’d get to see you at all today. With the statue’s discovery, everything’s been pretty crazy.”
Oliver ran his finger through his blonde curls. “Everything usually is, when it comes to you and your digs.”
Nisa looked up from her work where a piece of pottery rested on the scanner as she shut it and pressed start on her computer. Her eyes met his bright green ones and she couldn’t help the smile that spread on her face. “Sometimes I still wonder why you’ve stayed with me all these years.”
Oliver grinned and lightly elbowed her. “If I didn’t follow you, then my job as a security guard would actually be pretty boring.”
Nisa gasped and held a hand to her chest. “Are you saying I get into too much trouble?”
Oliver rolled his eyes. “I’m saying trouble follows you.”
She shook her head and glanced back at the other artifacts as the pottery’s scan finally started to come through on the computer. Her team had already cleaned it as best as they could—Susie especially had worked all day to clean it up—but the symbols etched on it were still unreadable. They had hoped by scanning in to her computer that she would be able to get an in-depth look at the symbols to read whatever the hieroglyphics said.
“That’s odd…” Nisa’s voice trailed off as she zoomed in on the image on her laptop.
“What is?” Oliver leaned closer to her laptop to look at the image with her.
The symbols on the pottery definitely weren’t hieroglyphics. There were about a dozen or so of them on the side of the vase, but only six of them were clear enough to be readable. If she could even read them in the first place. “These aren’t hieroglyphics.”
Oliver frowned. “Right. Egyptian pottery found in an Egyptian tomb in Egypt, and then the writing on it isn’t even Egyptian. How does that make sense?”
“It doesn’t. Whatever language this is, I can’t read it.” Nisa had studied languages for years and even though she didn’t have a Linguistics degree, she might as well have. She could speak over five languages and read about a dozen more, but this one, whatever it was, wasn’t one of them. “Mmm…” She saved the picture and sent it to one of her father’s old colleagues. The man had tutored her for years, since her father’s travels kept her from being able to attend school for many years and it was likely he would know what it was.
“Who’d you send it to?”
Oliver frowned and sat upright again. “Are you sure you want to be in contact with him?”
Nisa gnawed on her lower lip. If her father knew she had contacted him, he would have given her the lecture of a lifetime. “I know, but I’m telling you, these symbols are odd. He’s my best chance. I mean, I can run it through a few searches, but I don’t think they’re gonna come up with anything.”
Oliver placed a hand on her shoulder and something about it comforted her. From what, she didn’t know, but being around him always made her feel better. “After his falling out with your dad, there’s a chance he might not even give you the info you need. Or, worse, he could find out what you have here and keep it from you and lie about it. He stabbed your dad in the back.”
“I know.” After all those years, growing up as a little girl who looked up to Callahan only to have him steal credit that rightfully belonged to her dad for a discovery he had made without Callahan, she still felt betrayed by him. It had crushed her dad and ruined his career, pushing Callahan and his family into the spotlight.
“I already sent it to him, so hopefully, he’ll just tell me the truth. He’s got better standings with all the museums and higher-ups anyway. He’d have no reason not to tell me.” Nisa leaned her seat back and crossed her arms with a frown.
Oliver shook his head. “Maybe. I hope you aren’t wrong, Ni.”
To ignore the fear coursing through her at the terrible mistake she could have just made, she ran the image through every search engine she had access too. With any luck, the results would come back with what she needed and then, her only concern would be what, if anything, Callahan planned to do with the information he got from the image.