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Hello, there! I hope you're all well. The weather here is being extremely odd and the fluctuation in temperature is not helping. Blah!


This week's offering is dedicated to my dear sister [livejournal.com profile] pattilovesviggo, who is home after surgery, and slowly recovering (hugses) and to the lovely [livejournal.com profile] mews1945 whose birthday it was yesterday. (More hugs).


So there! Well, on we go!


I must tell you that I use the term Archon, here. It's not an Egyptian word, or office, but I expect you won't mind that, any more than you'd worry why the Egyptians in these stories all had doors on their buildings. (They had very few!) Just thought I'd say!

Oh, and Ramose is pronounced Rah-mose-ay. It's nicer! :D

Thank you dear [livejournal.com profile] ladysunrope for squeezing in the beta amongst all the milliard of things you have to ram into this week. (Even MORE hugs!)


Part 4


Dom studied the man sitting opposite him very carefully. Ackon was a large man - tall, and bulky, with more than enough strength to be able to overpower little Seth, he thought.

Lij was consoling Ackon on the loss of a dear friend. "Very sad - shocking!" Ackon said, drawing his face into a suitable expression at last. "He will be a great loss, both to me, and to the community at large. He was ever studying how best to serve the people that live here. Not all have been as fortunate as we."

Lij was beginning to feel very sorry indeed that he had not had time to know Seth better.

He had met with Seth, Ackon told them, in a wine shop run by his wife's nephew. Several friends spoke to him, and, Ackon stated, he went off with two of them after they had spent an hour there.

"So I have no knowledge where Seth went after we parted. I went with my friends to their workshop - they are both gold-smiths - and stayed there, talking, until it was time to return home for the evening meal. I heard about Seth as I walked home. Such a shock! My wife will tell you, I could eat nothing! Nothing at all!"

Lij smiled perfunctorily. Whatever shock - if any - he had suffered the day before, he seemed to have recovered from it now.

"If you can think of any way you can help this investigation, you may contact us, either at Ptolemy's inn, or through the epistates with whom we are presently working to solve this heinous crime. Good day!"

Lij offered the smallest inclination of his head as a courtesy, and walked out without another word.

"Pompous camel!" he huffed, as they left the house. "I cannot think he cared anything for Seth at all, and he has known him all his life!"

It was clear to Dom that Lij had been very upset by his meeting with Ackon. "What is it, muh chree?

Lij turned, his eyes filled with anger. "I hope, when I am called to go into the Great Mystery, I shall leave behind me friends who care more for the loss of my company than that...that...oaf...cares for the loss of Seth!" he declared.

They moved quietly through the town, not speaking, until Lij, throwing off his dark, unaccustomed mood, pointed across the street. "There is Aapet, and he looks as if he is going to the inn. Perhaps he has news for us!"

They went to their room where they could close the door and talk, without being interrupted or overheard.

"No, no news," said Aapet, sitting on the stool Dom offered him. "Perhaps it is time to pool what we have learned, however."

Lij drew out Nat and Nakht's reports from his scrip. Dom knew that Lij needed no papyrus to record what he had learned, though Dom would prepare one, later. Lij's memory was prodigious. All he had learned of the case would be in his head.

Just then Nakht arrived to ask if they needed anything. "Yes, my friend - you, Nat, some more stools, and wine, if you please. And any pomegranate juice, should they have any."

In a few minutes Nakht had returned accompanied by Nat, who was carrying two stools, the innkeeper followed with a table, and Nakht himself bearing the tray of wine, and containing, to Lij's astonished delight, a jug of pomegranate juice.

It was obvious to all of them that Dom and Lij were now being treated with more deference and civility by the innkeeper than they had been previously. Lij wondered at it. "Why has he become so polite? I have never seen him bow to us before. I trust he has not divined our secret."

Aapet pursed his lips. "I think he may have realised that you are not what you seem. He was there when I found the Horus, but I did not let him see what it was. However it was plain I had found something. But you all must know the law regarding visitors baggage, and the crippling fines imposed on inn-keepers who tamper with it. He would not risk that fine - it would cost more than the value of the inn. Now that I am seen to meet privately with you, perhaps he thinks you are an epistates from another town, or something similar. He does not suspect you of any crime, I made sure of that."

Lij smiled. "It may be. Thank you, Aapet. I must introduce you properly, Nat. Aapet, this is the Prince Iri-Natjer, of whom you will have heard, I have no doubt."

Aapet stood immediately, and bowed. "I have heard of you, indeed, my lord prince. Your fame goes before you!"

Dom grinned. "You see, Nat! When you stopped that desert madman from slicing Lij into pieces last year, I told you the secret would get out!"

Nakht looked shocked. "What madman...?"

Lij patted his arm. "You were visiting your sister, old friend, at that time - and Dom exaggerates. I was in no danger."

Lij's spouse snorted loudly. "Yes, you were. I saw the man leap at you. But Nat, may all the gods bless him, was nearer."

"Well, let us forget all that, and get on with the business in hand," said Nat, gruffly. He hated the thought of his little cousin being in any danger.

"So, let us go about this reasonably," Lij said, handing Nat his documents. "Aapet will speak first, then Nat and Nakht, then Dom and myself."

"I think we should start by naming all those who are - or might be - involved in this case," Aapet began. "And then we can see if we agree on any points brought up by the naming. First must be Tawaret, Seth's widow. What are your impressions of her?"

As Nat and Nakht had not seen her, Dom spoke. "It might be best if we hear what her reputation is in the port town, Aapet. Please begin."

"As far as we have been able to ascertain," the officer began, "she is a good and virtuous wife, a notable business-woman, and a careful house-keeper. She is said to treat her servants well, and has a few close friends - all eminently respectable women - mostly chosen from within the guild of silversmith's wives. Foremost amongst them being Amun-Nut, the wife of Ackon."

Dom raised his eyebrows at that, but Lij merely scratched his chin, before he contributed his mite. "We have met Tawaret twice. On both occasions she was polite, but cool. She was wearing - which I found odd - a plain white gown, more like a maidservant's than the mistress of the house. She seemed upset by Seth's death, but not overly distressed."

"She told us to apply to Ramose for details of her late husband's 'daily doings'. Did you know they were lovers, he and Seth?"

Aapet laughed. "Yes, it was a well-known thing in the town. Tall, handsome Ramose, and little, mousey Seth. And that brings us to our second...I hate to call them 'suspects' but what else are they?

"Ramose, originally from Sen-Adom, the city named after the god-king, of course," his eyes twinkled. "Came here about twenty years ago, to work for Seth. Seth had not yet married Tawaret, but she was hoping for it, I divine, so their relationship must have taken a heavy blow. For once those two men set eyes upon each other, as common tale runs - neither ever looked at another after that. However, Seth married Tawaret despite it. It was expected, and he was an honourable man."

"Ramose is a talented worker, a fair employer, a good friend, and well respected amongst the guild. He keeps himself to himself, and is rarely seen in the wine shops, and never frequents the brothels. At least, I have never met anyone who owned to seeing him there."

"But that does not mean he does not visit them. Not everyone would admit to having visited a brothel, after all." Nat objected, trying to get a fair picture.

Lij was amused. "Have you visited one, cousin?" he asked, his voice deceptively innocent.

Nat committed blasphemy by thumping his cousin lightly on the arm. "Really, Lij!" he complained. He had no difficulty treating his cousin as an ordinary man when they were out upon these expeditions. At the palaces Nat was daily - if not hourly - reminded of his godly status.

They returned to the matter in hand. Nat and Nakht related what they had found in their walks about the town. Seth was a good man, so was Ramose. Ackon was held esteem, their wives above reproach. It seems no-one disliked Seth, certainly they had found no-one as a candidate for murder.

Even Sese, Aapet pointed out, could have run off with the silver after he was attacked. But he did not.

"I am at a loss, sirs," Aapet owned, shrugging his shoulders, and spreading his hands in a gesture as old as time.

Lij looked up. "I have an uneasy feeling - nothing more - about Tawaret. I cannot put my finger on why she disturbs me, but she does. I have a feeling that it is she who is at the centre of this coil. If you will indulge me," he said, glancing at Aapet for approval, "I would like to have a watch kept on the house - who goes in and out - that sort of thing. Can you spare a man or two, epistates?"

Dom nodded. "I would trust Lij's 'feelings' above other men's facts, Aapet."

Lij grinned at him. "Well, thank you, Great Royal Spouse! I am honoured!"

Aapet suddenly remembered who the two men were, who sat opposite him, smiling into each other's eyes. He felt like kneeling before them, and he had never thought he would feel like that. He was proud of his god-kings - very proud. They were not shadowy divinities, but real men.

They had come to no conclusion as to why Dom seemed to have been chosen to be found with the body. This mystery still had to be solved. Dom, scratching his head over it said it was rather like the scent of roses in Ackon's house. "It may be that several merchant's wives and other wealthy ladies of the town use this perfume. I cannot allow us to get too excited over it."

They spoke together for a little while longer, before Aapet summed up what they had been discussing.

"So, then - it seems that Tawaret and Ackon both have alibis for the time of Seth's murder. She was leading a meeting of the wives of guild merchants, and he was with several friends in a place where he was observed by other people."

"Sese was lying unconscious in a stable, verified by the stable owner, who found him."

"It seems to me that the only person who cannot be accounted for is Ramose. Although he did work most of the day, he freely admitted to going out for an hour or two in the afternoon. He declined to say where he went."

Lij looked up quickly at that. "Do you think he might have done it, Aapet?"

"Anyone could have done it. We are not that certain of what the hour was when Seth was killed. Was it straight after he parted from Ackon, or shortly before he was found by the innkeeper?"

All the men present gave it some thought. "The blood on my chest had not congealed," Dom stated. "But that means little."

Aapet sniffed. "No, it means something. The blood was fresh, not clotted. It had not turned brown, as blood exposed to the air does, in a very short time, particularly in this heat. Good point, Dom!"

Nat and Nakht were anxious to leave. They had an appointment, they said, with someone who might have information for them, and were eager not to miss the meeting.

"Let me know if you learn something we can all benefit from hearing," Aapet said, as they stood to leave.

"Who is it, anyway?" Lij asked, thirstily drinking more juice.

"Sese, the guard," Nat said. "He came to find you earlier, Lij - said he had remembered something. I gave him a gold deben in earnest of our turning up to meet him. He said he would rather deal with us. I wonder why that was?"

Nakht's expression could have told him why, thought Dom. A gold deben!

Lij grinned. "Well, my dear cousin, spend your debens wisely. We still have some investigating to do, before this case ends."


When they were alone at last, Lij poured himself more pomegranate juice, whilst Dom lay flat on the bed, enjoying the afternoon breeze off the sea that came through the window.

"It is too hot, even for love," he mused, as Lij lay down beside him.

"Too hot for kisses?" Lij asked, his voice wistful.

Dom leaned over and touched his lips to Lij's, tasting the juice, and savouring the unique flavour that was his love. "It is never too hot to kiss you, muh chree," he murmured, as Lij sighed under his lips.

***

They rested that evening, and waited for Nat and Nakht to return from visiting Sese. When they did return, Nat's face was clouded with annoyance. "What a waste of a deben!" he growled, as he sat beside his cousin to partake of the evening meal.

Nakht shook his head. "It was hardly his fault that he was killed, my lord. He did not wish it - I am certain of that."

Lij put down the duck's leg he was eating, and stared at Nat. "How did he die?"

"Some tiles fell off a roof onto his head, and finished him off. That place is dangerous - where he lives, I mean. Nothing seems to be cared for."

Nat studied the dishes before him, and made his choice before making any further comment. "At least, they were repairing the roof, I suppose. No-one seemed to know who was doing that. The tiles had been carried up there to replace some cracked ones, and they slipped and fell on his head. He was found by his wife, lying in the back yard, surrounded by broken tiles."

Dom glanced at Lij, but said nothing. They ate their meal in companionable silence.


"We will visit the widow tomorrow, Dom" Lij said as they climbed into bed. "It may be that he was murdered to keep him silent. It has to be looked into, most carefully." Lij blew out the lamp, and Dom settled beside his spouse, hoping for a decent night's sleep. The heat was getting worse. He hoped tomorrow would bring cooling winds in off the seas.

***

The morning brought clear skies, and heat that blew in through the window like the blast from a furnace.

"Will you keep still, Lij! How can I do this properly if you keep moving your head?"

Lij immediately pursed his lips, and sent an apologetic glance at the man standing before his chair, bowl and brush in hand.

A few more deft strokes and the kohl was painted around Lij's eyes. He was perfectly capable of applying it himself, but Dom insisted on doing it, for, he said, Lij tended to merely slap it on. "And these lovely eyes need a proper framing, besides the kohl protecting them from the excessive heat and glare. Ra would scorch, today, love you as he does!"

Lij could not help it. He kissed Dom's nose, laughing. They dressed quickly in the clean tunics provided by Nakht, and went downstairs to eat breakfast.

They ate alone; the two other men had decided that they would like a cool day on the sea, sailing in a little hired boat. So they ate a hurried meal, just waiting long enough to tell Dom and Lij their plans. Lij, glancing at their sweating faces - for both were well-built men, inclined to fat - decided they would be more comfortable on the water.

***

"Ramose first, or the new widow?" Lij asked, as he and Dom walked out of the inn into the morning heat.

"Sese's place, I think, Lij. At least we can get it over with, and the stench out of our nostrils early."

Lij had had a word with Aapet, and was surprised, when they turned into the street, to see that buckets and brooms had already been provided, and that they were being employed to clear the street.

A law officer, his tunic brought between his legs and tucked into his belt, wheeled a barrow loaded with detritus of every kind out of the pathway, and Lij grinned. He had told Aapet to send in receipts for the cleaning of the town to the local Archon. "I have already sent a document, signed by me - and stamped by the Horus Seal, to him. He will be glad to pay for it. At least he had better be glad. The place is in a disgraceful state. He should be ashamed!"

The children were helping, and one of the mothers was making a game out of placing rubbish in buckets, to see which one could be filled first. Lij found out her name, and said to Dom that he would pass it on to Aapet as a person likely to report to him on the cleanliness of the street, for a fee. Her dress was clean and whole, and her children, too, were decently dressed. They wondered what they would find within Sese's hovel.

They were destined to be pleasantly surprised. The place was clean and neat, and it had obviously been kept that way before the edict came. The sandy floors were well brushed, and the small table and stools scoured clean with sand and water.

Sese's widow sat by the one window in the room, looking out over the back yard. She wore a clean blue tunic and plain sandals. Lij glanced out. The tiles had been cleared away from the yard, and any blood that had been spilt there, washed away.

"May we come in?" Lij asked, his voice soft. There was a very small baby asleep in the woman's arms. Two young children played with wooden blocks on the floor. Her man's death would hit her hard.

She glanced up, her face streaked with tears. "I can tell you nothing! Sese did not tell me what he had remembered, although he did say he had remembered something that might be worth a few silver debens. I told the other officers that, an hour ago. Can you not leave me in peace?"

Lij sat on a stool opposite her. "Men came this morning? Did they say who sent them?"

She dashed a trembling hand across her face. "They came from the epistates, they said. Two of them, like you. They didn't wear a uniform, either. I didn't know them, neither could I tell them anything."

Her voice was rough, but its tone was gentle. Lij ventured another question. "Can you describe them?"

She shook her head. "I am in no case to be examining chance visitors, sir. I was thinking, when they called, that I will have to go back to whoring, now that my man is dead. I despised that trade but my children have to eat!"

"Do not worry," Dom said, his voice equally quiet. "You will need to do no such thing! There is a fund held by the epistates, Aapet, for just such a case as yours. You may collect a weekly pension from him, that will last until you re-marry."

Lij beamed at his companion, and carefully looked at the purse tied around Dom's waist. Dom withdrew from it a handful of coins. With or without the gold deben Sese had received the day before, it should see her set comfortably for several months.


They left shortly after that, Dom narrowly missing the full force of a pail of water being thrown by a zealous house-wife, over her front doorstep.

They walked to Ramose's workshop in a thoughtful mood.

"I do not think for one moment that Aapet sent those men to her. He would have either gone himself, or sent young Panshi, to gain experience. We can..."

Fortunately, they encountered Aapet on the way, and he shook his head. "No, I sent no-one. I am - was - going there myself. There seems little point, now."

Dom told him of the supposed 'pension fund' for widows. "It will be well-funded, and run entirely at your discretion. A once-yearly report of monies disbursed, sent both to the Archon, and to us, will suffice. You are answerable to us, not to him. The Horus Seal will be used tonight upon another document. I hope he is a patient man - he may yet receive more!"

Aapet laughed, and said in a quiet tone - "he is not a bad man, Great One - just a trifle lazy - but you will shake him up, I am certain."

He left then, to investigate a robbery at a gold warehouse, and Dom and Lij went straight to see Ramose.

They found him engraving the last goblet of the three they had ordered. They waited a few minutes for him to finish it, and as he set it beside the other two, they all admitted that they were very fine goblets, indeed.

"Do you think that you could manage an order, say, of three hundred of these goblets?" Lij asked, thinking how pleasant it would be to drink his pomegranate juice from these vessels every day.

"Three...hundred?" the man spluttered, astonished.

"Well, perhaps five hundred," allowed Lij, thinking of two hundred for Phatkept.

The man stared at Lij. "Where would I get an order like that?" he asked, when he could speak.

"Oh," said Lij, airily, beaming at Dom, who knew there was no point in trying to frown Lij down when he was in this mood. "You never know! But if the order came, could you honour it?"

"It would take some time, sir - it takes two days to make one. But that is if one man moulds it, and another engraves. If I set two or three men to making and two to engraving, it would be quicker. It should take less than a year."

Lij was happy. "May I see other articles that you have made? It may be I...er, someone I know...might like a few basins, and some such things."

Dom sighed. He followed Lij and Ramose into the next room, which contained an alcove with many examples of the workshop's output.

When Lij had looked his fill, they went into the small office, where Lij put the question that they had come to ask.

"Where did you go, on the afternoon that Seth was killed, Ramose?"

To their surprise, the man blushed a deep scarlet. "I cannot tell you."

Lij said, his voice gentle but firm. "We will find out from someone, if not from you. It will be better if you volunteer the information, rather than us finding it out elsewhere."

Ramose stared at the wall above Lij's head. "I went to Seth. It was our afternoon for..."

He glanced pitiably at Lij. "Do not make me say it. Can you not guess?"

"You went to him to make love, is that it?" Dom could see it plainly in the man's face.

Ramose nodded. "It was our afternoon for it. Like a little oasis in the desert of the week's work. We both looked forward to it. Seth liked to be away from the workshops to...to...we seldom...did it, there."

"I see," Lij said. "Why do you blush? Love is beautiful, wherever it may be conducted. You must not be ashamed of it. Certainly Dom and I are not."

"No, indeed!" said Dom, with warmth. "Our love has lasted for a very long time, and we are not ashamed."

Ramose looked up at this. "You?" He stared at the two men gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, and saw the truth of their avowal. His shoulders relaxed. "I do not know any others like...like me. I do not frequent such places where any may be found. And I never expected to...to replace my Seth, even though he was older than I. Now, I shall not even try."

"I shall tell you where we were, sirs. We were at the inn - the inn at which you are staying. We have the same room for two or three hours every week. He was tired, so I left Seth sleeping, there..."

He could not continue for a moment. Then he looked up, the tears blurring his eyes. "You will find out who did this to him. And then I will execute punishment upon them. My Seth shall not go unavenged!"

Date: 2009-07-19 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tristanpaulus.livejournal.com
Hmmm....Tawaret and Ackon's wife are best friends, apparently....I doubt this is irrelevant information ;-)

Nor do I believe a loose tile just happened to fall on Sese's head!

The clouds of suspicion are hanging over Tawaret and Ackon and his wife...unless Ramose is doing a very good acting job of the bereaved lover.

Date: 2009-07-24 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
It's all go! There's plenty to think about in this one! I do enjoy a tangled web! :D xxx

Date: 2009-07-19 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] verangel.livejournal.com
Wow Ru I didn't see that coming at all! Seth and Ramose were making love at the hotel. Someone then killed seth and moved him to Dom's and Lij's room? What about the blood. What a mystery. I am surprised they didn't think to speak to Ackon's wife. There is so much more coming. I LOVE IT and waited all day checking. Hugs you close and much love xoxoxo v

Date: 2009-07-24 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
It'll be up early on Sunday, cos LSR has already betaed it as she's away. Hugs you, too. ;D xxx

Date: 2009-07-19 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mews1945.livejournal.com
Tawaret is certainly involved somehow in Seth's death. I don't think Sese's death was an accident either. This is another wonderful mystery.

Date: 2009-07-24 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
No, it certainly wasn't an accident. I'm so glad you are enjoying it. Just about to write the denouement - in the morning, I think. Too darn tired right now! ;D xxx

Date: 2009-07-20 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laeliacatt.livejournal.com
The mystery deepens! Poor Ramose. I feel so badly for him.

I hope Pat is feeling better. *hugs to her, to you and to LSR*

Date: 2009-07-24 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Pat is a lot better, thank you. I just spoke to her, and she managed a short walk to the shop. :D

I feel for Ramose, too. Poor man! xxx

Date: 2009-07-21 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janejanejane.livejournal.com
I hope Pat is continuing to recover. Please give her my love.

I love the way you write these mysteries, dear Issi! The falling tile was unlikely to be an accident, methinks.

So, Seth was with Ramose that afternoon for their regular lovers' tryst. Someone would know about that. I wonder who...?!


Looking forward to the next part, although I'll have to wait as we're off to Norfolk on Sunday!

Thanks to you and LSR as always.
*huggles*
XXXX

Date: 2009-07-24 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ismenin.livejournal.com
Yes, she is much better. I spoke to her after I spoke to you, and she did manage to get as far as the corner shop! :D

The next part will be there whenever you get a minute to read it!! Hugs ;D xxxx

Date: 2009-07-25 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janejanejane.livejournal.com
That's good news about Pat, thanks for letting me know :-)

Will read the next part when I can!

Hugs back
XXXX

Date: 2009-07-27 07:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/tweedle_/
Hmmm... Yes! Seth must be avenged. :) So many clues. I think the attar of roses is the vital clue that will lead them to cuprit! *runs down to bookies and places bet*

I suspect there is a lot of you in the Elijah character. His prodigious memory and his and Dom's suffering from the heat to name a couple. :) Love it. That does make it such fun! XXOO

Date: 2009-08-17 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] primula-baggins.livejournal.com
Aww, poor Ramose! How awful that they went to make love at the inn, and he left Seth there only to find him murdered later.

I love that Lij is thinking of getting large orders of goods from Ramose, even if it does take him a lifetime to fill them.

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