Authors: Brad Geagley
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical
1230 Avenue of
New York, NY
This book is a
fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely
by Brad Geagley
including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
SIMON& SCHUSTERand colophon are registered
of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Year of the
I am opposed
increasingly longer and ever more gushing forms of author “thank you”
pages. Too often they sound like Oscar acceptance speeches and not like
something that belongs in a book. However, I would be remiss not to
mention four persons who were very important in the creation of this
, my lawyer, agent,
and lucky star.
my esteemed editor,
who kept pulling me from the edge by pounding into my head the
following two phrases: “Mystery, Brad, not history,” and “More
Sherlock, less Indiana Jones.”
, Michael’s assistant;
as Judy said, it takes a brave woman to accept a manuscript in a
, who, along with
Michael, read every word of
as it was being
written. Real estate may be his profession, but words are his art.
Thank you, all.
Year of the Hyenas
is a work of fiction,
the mystery depicted in the book is based on history’s oldest known
“court transcripts,” the so-called Judicial Papyrus of Turin, the
Papyrus Rifaud, and the Papyrus Rollin.
The year is
1153bce . The pyramids are
hundred years old, King Tut-ankh-amun has been dead for two hundred
years, and Cleopatra’s reign will occur over a thousand years in the
future. To the north, Achilles, Ajax, and Menelaus are battling the
Trojans for the return of Helen.
Most of the
in this book are modeled after those people who lived at the time and
participated in the events. Ramses III, “the last great pharaoh,” ruled
Egypt with the aid of Vizier Toh, while at the Place of Truth the
tombmakers Khepura, Aaphat, and Hunro lived in homes that can still be
visited today. We even know that one day Paneb really did chase
Neferhotep up the village’s main street.
Though I have
simplified Egyptian spellings and names for the modern reader, I have
chosen to call certain temples and cities with the names used by the
Egyptians themselves. Medinet Habu thus becomes Djamet Temple, Deir el
Medina becomes the Place of Truth, the Valley of the Kings becomes the
Great Place, and so on. The exception to this is the city of Thebes, a
name too magnificent in itself to change to the more correct Waset.
HETEPHRAS LIMPED FROM HER PALLET
of her house like an old arthritic monkey. She pulled aside the linen
curtain and squinted to the east. Scents of the unfurling day met her
nostrils. Sour emmer wheat from the temple fields. The subtler aroma of
newcut barley. Distant Nile water, brown-rich and brackish. And even at
this early hour, someone fried onions for the Osiris Feast.
eyes were almost entirely opaque now. Though a physician had offered to
restore her sight with his needle treatment, Hetephras was content to
view the world through the tawny clouds with which the gods had
afflicted her; in exchange they had endowed her other senses with
greater clarity. Out of timeworn habit she raised her head again to the
east, and for a moment imagined that she saw the beacon fires burning
in Amun’s Great Temple far across the river. But the curtains fell
across her sight again, as they always did, and the flames burnt
a moment, because as priestess in the Place of Truth she could no
longer clearly view the treasures wrought in her village—decorations
for the tombs of pharaohs, queens, and nobles that were the sole
industry of her village of artists; pieces that lived for a smattering
of days in the light of the sun, then were borne to the Great Place,
brought into the tomb, and sealed beneath the sand and rock in darkness
thin, bony spine, firmly banishing self-pity. She was priestess and had
to perform the inauguration rites for the Feast of Osiris that morning.
At Osiris Time, the hour for speaking with the gods was at the very
moment when the sun rose, for it was then that the membrane separating
this life and the next was at its most fragile, when the dead left
their vaults to gaze upon the distant living city of Thebes, girded for
Though she had
priestess for over twenty years, Hetephras had never seen any shape or
spirit among the dead, as others said they had. She was an unsubtle
woman who took her joy from the simple verities of ritual, tradition,
and work. She believed with all her heart the stories of the gods, and
put it down to a fault in herself that never once had they revealed
themselves to her. Her husband, Djutmose, had been the spiritual one in
the family, having been the tombmakers’ priest when he married her.
When he died in the eleventh year of Pharaoh’s reign, the villagers
chose Hetephras to continue his duties; they had seen no reason to
was many years ago. Soon her own Day of Pain would come, as it must to
all living things, and she would be taken to lie beside Djutmose and
their son in their own small tomb. Perhaps it was only the morning
breezes that made her shiver.
She limped to
chest in her sleeping room. On its lid, flowers of ivory and glass
paste entwined, while voles and crows of pear wood worried the curling
grapevines of turquoise and agate. It had been made by her husband. In
addition to his priestly duties, Djutmose had been a maker of
cupboards, caskets, and boxes for Pharaoh, and he had fashioned these
simple images knowing they would please his simple wife. She cherished
this casket now above all else she owned; it would be buried with her.
Hetephras plucked her priestess garb: a sheath of linen, white;
pectoral of woven wire, gilded; and a bright blue wig of raffia fibers
in the shape of vulture wings. Then she carefully packed the oil and
sweetmeats the gods so loved into an alabaster chalice. Thus attired
and burdened, she waited at her stoop for Rami, the son of the chief
scribe. It was Rami who had been appointed to guide her to the shrines
on these feast days.
But there was
of the boy. Hetephras stood waiting patiently for him, skin prickling
against the cool air of morning. Her thick wig made a comfortable
pillow as she leaned against the doorframe. Her eyes closed, just for a
moment… and the old lady was carried away into nodding forgetfulness by
the quiet and the breezes. She was brought awake again by the subtle
warming of her skin.
startled, sniffing the air. Irritation and panic made her heart beat
faster. It was fast becoming full dawn! She would miss the appointed
time for the offering! The gods would blame her, and in turn would
become churlish with their blessings.
he? Sleeping with the shroud-weaver Mentu’s little slut, no doubt. She
had heard them together before, her ears keen to catch their shared
laughter and, later, their moans. The youngsters of the village often
used the empty stable next to Hetephras’s house as a trysting place—as
did some of the adults. The old priestess murmured dismally to herself
that a generation of sluggards and whores was poised to inherit Egypt.
go alone to the Osiris shrine. It was the most distant of all the
shrines and chapels she tended, and when she thought of the effort it
would cost her, half-blind as she was, her heart thumped with fresh
anger toward Rami.
Damn him! She
give him a tongue-lashing in front of his parents, that’s what she
would do—in front of the whole village!