“Are you sure you were not followed?” Professor Quilp’s eyes darted up and down the narrow street before he closed the door, bolting it and turning the hefty key in the lock.
I gave him every assurance that I had stuck to his instructions to the letter, doubling-back, zigzagging my way through the bustling souk, even turning my coat inside out at one point.
He nodded but I could tell he was too agitated, too worked up to be satisfied.
He ushered me into a darkened study; the only illumination came from a green-shaded desk lamp.
“Did you bring it?” The prof was practically salivating.
“Of course!” I felt in my pockets. Panic struck me. I patted myself down while the professor trembled with anticipation. Then I remembered my coat was inside out! Seconds later, the item was produced. Quilp snatched it from me and held it under the lamp.
“What is it?” I had to ask. To me it looked like a worthless washer of the kind you can buy for a dime a dozen at any hardware store, but the professor was smacking his lips with delight.
“This, my boy, is the next part of the puzzle. This is the ring from the staff of Amon-Ra. This ring enables the staff-bearer to direct unfathomable power!”
“Oh. Cool, I guess. And where is this staff or Eamon Holmes, or whoever?”
“Amon-Ra,” the professor gave me a sour look. “The staff is the ultimate prize of our quest. First, we must translate the markings on this ring. There’s a man at the British Museum who is mustard at that sort of thing – but he has, alas, been kidnapped and it falls to us to release him from his captors; we are not the only ones interested in acquiring the staff. Then we must secure transport to Cairo, where a contact awaits with the other half of the map that reveals the location of the sacred daggers we shall need to fight off the demonic, hound-headed sentinels who guard the submerged temple of Bastet, which contains the scroll with the incantations to summon an army of scarab beetles that will devour our rivals and lead us to the Valley of Peril where we must solve the riddles of the Sphinx in order to pass through to the Forbidden Realm.”
He paused for breath.
“Gee, I don’t know, Professor,” I rubbed the back of my neck. “It sounds like an awful lot of work to me.”
Our eyes met for a moment. I thought Professor Quilp was going to yell at me or at least tell me how disappointed he was in my attitude.
Instead, he gave me a sad little smile. He tossed me the flat little hoop.
“You’re right. I’m far too old for this kind of thing. Go, boy, into the kitchen. I think you’ll find that doodad is just the thing for fixing the dripping tap.”