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Glenn Meade

THE SANDS OF
SAKKARA
Glenn Meade

November 1943.

Adolf Hitler sanctions his most
audacious mission ever - to kill President Franklin D Roosevelt and Prime
Minister Winston Churchill as they visit
Cairo
for a secret conference to plan the Allied invasion of
Europe
.

Only one man is capable of leading
the Nazi mission - Major Johann Haider, one of the Abwehr's most brilliant
agents, a man with a tortured soul and a talent for the impossible.

Accompanied by an expert
undercover team and young Egyptologist Rachel Stern, Haider must race against
time across a hostile desert, to reach
Cairo
and successfully carry out the assignment, or forfeit His own life and that of
his young son.

When
US
military intelligence learn of
the plan, they assign Lieutenant-Colonel
Harryx
Weaver to hunt down and eliminate Haider and his team. But for Weaver, as for
Haider and Stern, there's more than just the balance of war and the lives of
the* Allied leaders at stake.

A pact of love and friendship is
about to be tested in a frantic, high-stakes chase to the death.

Don't miss Glenn Meade's other
bestselling thrillers,
Brandenburg
and Snow Wolf, both available from Coronet.

 

Also
by Glenn Meade

 

BRANDENBURG
SNOW WOLF
THE SANDS OF
SAKKARA

 

 

'We had this incredible plan. It
would throw the Allies into complete chaos and ruin their intentions of
invading
Europe
. You can't possibly realize
how close
Germany
came to winning the war.'

Walter
Schellenberg, SS general, in an interview with his Allied interrogators at
Nuremberg
, February 1946

'Between friends, there is no need
of justice.'

Aristotle

The Present

 

 

 
One

 

Cairo

It was April and the khamsin was
blowing, a howling desert wind that lashed the streets with gusts of blinding
sand.

As the taxi pulled up outside the
morgue and I stepped out, I wondered again what had possessed me to come here
on such a wicked night, and with no more evidence to go on than the corpse of
an old man washed up on the banks of the
Nile
.

'Do you want me to wait, sir?' The
taxi driver was a young man with a beard and a mouthful of bad teeth.

'Why not?' It definitely wasn't
the kind of night to go looking for another cab.

The morgue was one of those grand,
solid old stone buildings you often see in
Egypt
, a relic of its colonial
past, but now it looked quite gloomy and the worse for wear, the granite
blackened by years of pollution and neglect. I saw a filthy alleyway at the
side, litter swirling in the driving wind. A porch light blazed above a
blue-painted door, a metal grille set in the middle. I went down the alleyway
and rang the bell. I heard it buzz somewhere inside the building and after a
few moments the grille opened and a man's unshaven face appeared.

'Ismail?'

The man nodded.

'I've come to see the old man's
body,' I said in Arabic. 'The one they fished out of the
Nile
.
Captain Halim of the
Cairo
police told me to ask for you.'

He seemed surprised that I spoke
his language, but then he opened the door with a rattle of bolts and moved
aside to let me enter. I stepped in out of the bitter wind, shook sand from my
coat, and went into the hallway. I felt a strange excitement fluttering in my
chest. Here I was, a man in my middle fifties, feeling like an excited school
kid, hoping that at last I might find answers to a bizarre mystery that had
haunted me for so many years.

It was surprisingly cool inside,
and an almost overpowering smell greeted me. A mixture of fragrant scent and
decaying flesh. I could see a wooden archway that led into the morgue itself,
the area beyond poorly lit by a dim bulb and a couple of guttering, aromatic
candles. Several metal tables were set around the room, grubby white sheets
draped over the corpses that lay underneath, and built into the morgue's
granite walls were at least a dozen stainless steel vaults, their scratched
surfaces pitted with dents.

Ismail stared up at me, a
well-practiced look of grief on his face. He was small and overweight and wore
a faded cotton djellaba. 'Are you a relative of the dead one?'

'I'm a journalist.'

The expression of grief faded
instantly. 'I don't understand.'

He frowned. 'What do you want
here?'

I took out my wallet, generously
peeled off several notes and handed them across. 'For your trouble.'

'Pardon?'

'Your time. And I won't take up
much of it. I'd just like to see the old man's body. Would that be possible?
There may be a story in it for me, you understand?'

Ismail obviously did. The money
banished any argument, and he smiled as he stuffed the notes into his pocket.
'Of course, as you wish. I'm always happy to oblige the gentlemen of the press.
You're an American?'

'That's right.'

'I thought so. Come this way.’

He led me into the morgue. It was
very cool inside, the flaking walls painted duck-egg blue and the delicate Arab
filigree woodwork on the arches and doors an art in itself, but the place
looked shabby and in need of renovation.

Ismail gestured to what looked
like a small work area, enclosed by a heavy beaded curtain. 'The body is over
here.

I was just working on it when you
rang. Not a very pleasant experience when a corpse has been in water for
several days.

You still wish to see it?'

'That's why I'm here.'

I followed him over and he drew
back the curtain. A couple of flickering scented candles were set beside a
marble slab, a naked male corpse on top, and next to it was a small metal table
with some of the simple tools of the mortician laid out. Waxed cord, cotton
wool, some bowls of water. The paraphernalia of death didn't really change much
no matter where you were,
Cairo
or
Kansas
. There were some
clean clothes folded neatly beside the table, an old linen suit and a shirt and
tie, socks and shoes, as if they were meant for laying out the corpse.

The old man on the slab must have
been well into his seventies and quite tall, at least six foot. His eyes were
glassy and open in death, his thinned grey hair sleeked back off his forehead.

The skin was white and shriveled
from being in the water, his features tight and horribly contorted. But there
was no sign of a long scar in the middle of his chest, evidence that he had
been sewn up after an autopsy. In Moslem countries, they bury their dead
quickly, usually before sunset if death occurs in the morning, otherwise the
following day, and the dead are considered sacred and barely touched. Even
murder victims are usually only treated to a necropsy: an external visual
inspection of the remains to help determine the cause of death, which is
educated guesswork at best.

I felt a shiver go through me, for
the scent of the candles didn't hide the stench of decomposition, and nodded at
the corpse. 'What can you tell me about him?'

The mortician shrugged, as if one
more death in a chaotic city of fifteen million souls hardly mattered. 'He was
brought here yesterday. The police found him in the water near the
Nile
railway bridge. The identification in his wallet
said his name was Johann Haider, a German, and he had an address at a flat in
the Imbaba district.'

That much I already knew. 'Did
anyone claim the body?'

'Not yet. The corpse will be kept
for a time while relatives are sought. But so far none have been found. It
seems he lived alone.'

'I take it he's not of the Moslem
faith?'

'A Christian, the police think.'

'Did he drown?'

Ismail nodded. 'The pathologist
believes so. As you can see, there are no wounds on the body. He thinks maybe
the old man fell into the river by accident, as happens sometimes. Or perhaps
he's a suicide from one of the bridges.' He rubbed his stubble.

'But it's impossible to know for
certain.'

'Anything else you can tell me?'

'I'm afraid not. You'll have to
ask the police.'

'From what I hear, they discovered
our dead friend had a second set of identity papers hidden at his flat. They
were pretty old, and in the name of Hans Meyer.'

Ismail shrugged. 'I'm just a
simple mortician. I heard nothing about such matters. But I know we have many
foreigners living in
Cairo
,
including Germans. You're from an American newspaper?'

'I'm their
Middle
East
correspondent.'

'Interesting.'

'But not half as interesting as
the old man could be.'

'You knew him?' Ismail said,
surprised.

'Let's just say if he's who I
think he is, you could be looking at the earthly remains of a truly incredible
man, considering he's supposed to have been dead for over fifty years.'

'Pardon?'

'A long story. But if it is him,
then you've got a very remarkable corpse keeping you company tonight.'

Ismail whistled. 'Then no wonder
the other gentleman was so interested.'

'Other gentleman?'

'He was here not half an hour ago.
He came to inspect the body. An elderly American. Used to getting his way, like
most Americans. He barged in here and demanded to see the remains.' Ismail
grinned and tapped the pocket of his djellaba.

'Alas, he wasn't as generous as
some of his countrymen. When I asked him for a little baksheesh he threatened
to cut off my hand.'

'Who was he?'

Ismail scratched his head. 'Harry
Weaver, I think he said.'

I was intrigued, felt a strange
tingling down my spine. 'Harry Weaver? You're sure of the name?'

'I believe so.'

'Describe him to me.'

'Quite tall. In his late seventies,
maybe even older, but he seemed to have kept himself in excellent condition. A
very capable-looking fellow.' Ismail looked surprised when he saw my startled
reaction. 'You know this Mr Weaver?'

'Not personally, but I've heard of
him.'

'He seemed like an important man.
Used to giving orders. A military type.'

'He was certainly that,' I
offered. 'And you can thank Allah you didn't lose your life, never mind your
hand. Harry Weaver is definitely not the kind of man to solicit for bribes. He's
a model of authority. For almost forty years he was an adviser on American
presidential security.'

Ismail spread his hands in a
helpless gesture. 'But baksheesh is the way of our world.'

'Don't I know it.' I pulled up the
collar of my coat and made to go.

Ismail said, 'Do you think the
body belongs to the German you spoke of?'

I looked down at the corpse. 'God
only knows. The poor soul's in such a state it's hard to tell which end of him
is up. Do you know where Mr Weaver went?'

'To the house where the German
lived. I heard him talk to the taxi driver who waited for him outside.'

'This gets more interesting by the
minute. Do you know the address?'

'Of course. I went there yesterday
to fetch some clothes for the burial, on the instructions of the police.'
Ismail wrote the address on a slip of paper I handed him.

'The rooms are on the top floor.'

'Have the police sealed up the
flat?'

'No. It was hardly necessary, the
old man hadn't got many belongings worth talking about. But if they bothered to
lock his rooms, the landlord has the keys.'

As I tucked the paper into my
pocket, Ismail said, 'Will there be anything else?'

I took one last look at the old
man's corpse before I turned to leave. 'No, thanks, you've been more than
helpful.'

Imbaba is a working-class
district, parts of it a crumbling shantytown of wooden and concrete dwelling
houses near the banks of the
Nile
. The streets
are puddled with open sewers, and the homes are huddled closely together as if
to protect themselves from the poverty and squalor all around. The taxi driver
found the address without any problem.

The house was built in the Arab
style, a big old dwelling, all ancient brown wood and very run-down, the
windows covered in shabby, faded net curtains, and there was a rotting, carved
wooden balcony jutting out from the first floor. There wasn't another taxi
outside but the front door was open, banging in the wind, a dark hallway
beyond.

'Wait here,' I told the driver,
and stepped out of the cab.

The hallway stank of urine and
stale food. As I went up the stairs, the wood creaked. I could hear a child
crying and a couple arguing somewhere below in the darkness of the house. When
I got to the landing I saw that one of the doors leading off was open and I
stepped inside.

The room I found myself in was
typically Egyptian, but it was shabby and in complete disarray. Drawers were
open and their contents spilled out, as if someone had searched the place.

Old papers and correspondence,
clothes and personal belongings, and a pair of shattered spectacles lay crushed
on the floor. A couple of doors led to other rooms, and there was a window that
looked out on to the
Nile
, covered in
darkness. I looked through the correspondence and papers, but there was really
nothing of interest. As I closed one of the drawers, I knocked over a table
lamp. It fell to the floor with a clatter, and then suddenly one of the other
doors opened.

When I turned I saw a tall,
elderly man come into the room.

The bedroom he'd stepped out of
was in disarray behind him, papers scattered everywhere, and he held a pair of
reading glasses in his hand. He wore a pale trench coat, his silver hair was
flecked with sand, and he had a slightly haunted look on his tanned face. I
knew he was at least in his early eighties, but he was remarkably well
preserved, had a freshness about him that made him appear ten years younger.
And he still looked every inch the military type - over six feet, his features
finely chiseled, though his shoulders were slightly stooped and his piercing
grey eyes looked watery with age.

They narrowed as he took me in.
'Who the hell are you?' he demanded, his accent unmistakably American.

'I could ask you the same
question, if I didn't already know the answer, Colonel Weaver.'

He seemed taken aback. 'You know
me?'

'Not personally, but what American
hasn't heard of Harry Weaver? A legend in his own lifetime. Security adviser to
American presidents for almost forty years.'

'And who are you?' Weaver snorted.

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