The Novice Collector: Book One

An Excerpt

“Looted Treasure Discovered in Cairo Neighborhood.” Max jumped to his feet, his voice drifting an octave higher.

Max’s grandfather, Archibald, sat on the opposite side of the large wooden desk near the entrance to the Cabinet. His feet were up, his face concealed behind an opened magazine. It was Friday, which in Egypt is the first day of the weekend. But for Max, it was a work day. Reading about new discoveries and forgeries in the world of antiquities wasn’t part of his job as Archibald’s apprentice, but whenever the teapot came out, newspapers and journals followed.

“Looted treasure you say? I’m not surprised.” Archibald responded, shifting his copy of Modern Collector to one hand and reaching for a cup of tea with the other.

Max folded his copy of Modern Archeological Times in half and brought the pages close to his face. He examined the small, grainy photograph of several men with ropes and pulleys working to lift an enormous statue from a sandy pit.

“How do you know a treasure has been stolen?” Max asked.

Archibald pushed his glasses over the boney crook of his nose. His eyes flickered. “It’s quite simple really. The most obvious clue might be that the object is found in a place where it doesn’t belong. There could be an identifying mark, or registration number, indicating the object had been catalogued before.” The antiquities expert took another sip from the porcelain cup and then folded his hands neatly on the desk. “It’s possible that when the object was stolen, the theft was widely publicized, making the object highly recognizable.” His grandfather’s eyebrows relaxed as he pulled the glasses from his face and set them aside.  “Of course, if in doubt, check the Supreme Council of Antiquities Registry.”

“The what?” Max asked, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. He had only been half-listening, his mind circling back to the recently discovered treasure. He wondered which Cairo neighborhood and why his grandfather appeared to know nothing about it.

“It’s a fancy database. I use it from time to time. Though I suppose those fellas in your article didn’t need the Registry.”

Max covered his face with the now crinkled pages, scanning for clues that might give away the location of the dig. When his friend Youssef returned from visiting family in the countryside, Max hoped the two boys could go snooping around, maybe even score an interview.  If Max could come up with a compelling story for his school newspaper, it might bring more members to his fledgling Amateur Antiquities Sleuthing Club. He’d do almost anything to get more members, even writing an article that seemed a lot like homework.

“How’d they know to look there, I wonder?” Max glanced around the edge of his newspaper just as his grandfather’s phone rang.

“Ah, Mr. Professor, I was just thinking of you.” Archibald said with a crooked smile.

. . . . .

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