THE BLACK SCARAB OF AMUN-RAI was staying in the Ramses Hilton, on the banks of the Nile itself. It was half-past-twoon a sultry August afternoon and in an hour’s time, I was going to take a leisurely walk across the 6 October Bridge. At the other end, I would meet a man who would hand over the priceless artifact I’d been in search of for more than ten years: the black scarab of Amun-Ra. My long journey was approaching its conclusion.I had traveled the world in search of the scarabaceous beetle of the sun god Ra. Always, ithad eluded me—sometimes almost miraculously so. In New York, I had actually had it inmy hands after planning the careful murder of its philanthropic American owner.However, an English detective employed on the case, had thwarted all my plans,retrieved the scarab and put me in a position from which I was happy to escape with mylife. Since that time, I had been forced to change my appearance by means of plasticsurgery. New skin had been grafted onto the ends of my fingers, so that even myfingerprints could no longer betray me. Outside, I was a new man---but inside the oldobsession with the scarab continued to fester.It was related that the black scarab had not been crafted by any human hand: rather it hadcome into spontaneous existence like the scarabaceous beetle from which it took itsname. It was the product of a blessed thought of the sun god Ra and represented the lightof the universe and the mysterious powers of regeneration that sustained the universe.Personally, I didn’t believe any of this. What I did believe in was its price tag: a cool fivemillion US dollars!I had followed the scarab’s trail from New York to London, where it had been taken bythe English detective. I believe that this foolish man had intended to donate it to theBritish Museum’s Egyptian collection. However, two days after arriving in London, thedetective was found murdered in his Chelsea flat, with throat cut from ear to ear. Of course the scarab had gone. Stories surfaced about it being taken to Norway where awealthy private enthusiast wished to make it the star acquisition of his collection.Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. The next certain news I received was that thescarab had returned to Egypt and was in the hands of a small time crook whose businesswas selling fake antiques. From across the world, I had contacted this man—his namewas Ahmed Bakr---and asked for an inventory of his bogus goods. Try to imagine myexcitement on discovering that the sacred beetle of Amun Ra was among his patheticcollection! Of course, he didn’t realize its importance, but I recognized it by the minutedescription I had demanded from him. In particular, the bottom had been used as a seal by the great pharaoh Amenhotep III. I offered him ten thousand pounds and he accepted iton the spot. Now I had come to collect the scarab. His shop lay on the other side of the bridge and in a very short time the sacred beetle would, at last, be mine.At three-thirty I called a taxi and just a few minutes later I was describing in egregiousArabic, precisely how the driver should arrive at Ahmed Bakr’s seedy shop on the other side of the bridge.‘Ah effendi, I know that area very well. There is no antique shop in the place of whichyou speak.’I waved the taxi driver on impatiently.