At the market, Kara sat down to sketch some of the locals. Indie decided to pick up some supplies: some dried food; a shower in a can; a tent; and… a gift for Kara. It was a bit expensive, and it probably wasn’t the best idea to buy it from a small general store, but he got her a pro camera. He knew how much she wanted to photograph the sights, and a cheap disposable one just wasn’t good enough for his sharp-eyed wife. Plus, it was a way of saying sorry for ditching her back at the camp, even if it did blow a third of their budget.
Kara tried to protest but she was secretly pleased, she began taking photos of the market straight away. When he knew his wife was happily distracted he started to chat to the locals, sounding them out to see if there were any dig-sites or excavation work going on. The people he spoke to seemed a bit cagey, he got the feeling there was work, but they didn’t want him to know about it.
He must have been chatting for a while because Kara called him over. She’d finished taking photos and had bought them both some falafel. Indie told Kara about his past adventures as they ate with a gleam in his eye. She knew he loved his academic career, but she could see how much he missed working on-site. Reading journals and looking at images on the internet just wasn’t the same as feeling the sand running through your fingers as you make that great discovery. She just had to help him get some work.
Indie reached the camp first, he scanned the notices on the board, hoping to find someone advertising work. There was a small, shiny business card sitting conspicuously among the dusty, sun-faded flyers. ‘MorcuCorp’ it read, ‘Working alongside the Al Simhara government.’
Well, that sounded promising! He was wary of the con-artists and smugglers who tricked students into excavating sites illegally. Indie wanted to find legitimate work. And if this MorcuCorp was really working with the local authorities, then it could be what he was looking for. He showed the card to Kara, she hadn’t heard of MorcuCorp, but the name of the contact sounded familiar.
They left to meet their contact Shadia Rashid, at her home Papyrus House. He introduced himself confidently, showing some of his previous work on his phone. His charm had never failed him before, but Shadia seemed almost hostile towards him. She knocked the phone from his hand and it cracked on the ground, Indie wasn’t sure if she’d done this on purpose or not, but he felt his stomach tighten with disappointment.
Fortunately, Kara showed up just in time. She rushed forwards and began supplicating Shadia in rapid, earnest Al Simharan that Indie could barely follow. Soon a smile broke out on Shadia’s face and the two women were giggling like old friends (maybe they were, Indie wasn’t sure).
Indie gestured wildly to his wife, ‘Ask her about work!’ he mouthed. Kara continued chatting for at least ten minutes before finally securing him some work.
‘There is a minor tomb next to the camp,’ Shadia conceded, still eying Indie reluctantly, ‘We are no longer interested in it, but I left some papers in there that I’d like to have back. If you collect them for me, you can keep whatever else you find.’
Indie thanked her profusely, and set back to camp to prepare. He left his wife chatting ceaselessly with Shadia, she seemed to be enjoying gossiping about her old home. As he made his way back down the winding path, a man ran past him. He smiled, but the man scowled distrustfully and continued jogging up the path.
Indie was confused. The locals had been so welcoming when he had visited several years before as a student. What had changed?