Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll Chapter 2 by Scott Peters

Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll 
by Scott Peters

Chapter Two

A Reward

Standing in front of his date stall, Salatis seemed to have forgotten all about his ruined wares. He rubbed his hands together, eyes on the medjay's sparkling coin.
"Well, now, come to think of it . . ." Salatis began.
"I saw the thief!" Zet called. "I can describe him!"
The medjay wheeled, his insignia gleaming.
"Ignore that meddlesome boy," Salatis said.
"And who might you be?" the medjay asked Zet.
"I run the clay pot stall over there," Zet said, drawing himself up.
"And you say you saw the thief?"
Zet nodded.
The deep grooves in the man's face relaxed a little. "Go ahead. Tell me then, what did he look like?"
"The deben, first please," Zet said, holding out his hand. He knew from his father to ask a customer for money before goods were transferred.
The medjay laughed. "Pay you?"
Zet's hand dropped a little. "You told Salatis you were going to pay for it."
"Boy, if you saw something, tell me now or I’ll drag you down to the office of the head medjay."
Zet's hand fell to his side.
He had seen the thief, and there was one distinct detail he remembered clearly. But he didn’t see why he should give it up for free, just because he was a boy instead of a man. And with his father gone, he was the man. He needed the money as much as Salatis. More. Salatis lived alone, and Zet had not only his sister, but also his mother and his new baby brother back home.
He glanced at the stall. Kat was staring at him, open-mouthed.
He thought fast.
"All right. I'll tell you what I know, as a free gift," Zet said.
"It's not a gift, it's your duty."
Zet ignored this. "But what's the reward if I hand over the robber, too?"
The medjay laughed.
"I mean it. I want to know. If it's a good business venture, I'll undertake it."
Throwing his head back, the medjay laughed even harder. "A good business venture? Boy, I think your father taught you well in the ways of bartering. I'd offer a reward. But there's no point. You don't stand a chance of finding him."
Zet liked the way the huge medjay's eyes crinkled around the corners. Here was a fighter with a sense of humor. Even if he was laughing at Zet, he was still listening to him. Zet wondered if he'd ever be that big one day.
"Then take a gamble and give me a figure," Zet said.
"Twenty deben of copper." The medjay tossed out the huge number with a reckless grin.
Zet gasped, and so did Salatis. He could barter that for ten sacks of grain; enough to feed them for months!
The thief must have stolen something incredibly valuable! "Twenty deben!" Zet said.
"Yes. But camels have a better chance of flying than you do of seeing those twenty deben."
"Shake on it," Zet said, making sure to seal the deal.
The man's strong, leathery hand grasped Zet's and shook it.
"And where will I find you?" Zet said.
The medjay rolled his eyes. "You're a persistent one, aren't you? You'll find me at the central office. Ask for Merimose, that's my name."
"Merimose," Zet said, committing it to memory.
"Now that that business is complete," Merimose said, "How about my free information?"
Zet cleared his throat. "The man you were chasing wore two different sandals."
"Two different sandals?"
Zet nodded. "They didn't match."
"That's your information? And you wanted me to pay for it?" Merimose put his thick fists on his hips. "I should cuff you for wasting my time."
But it was good information. And even if it wasn't the only information he had, it was free. Zet darted back to his stall in case Merimose tried to get in a smack or two.
"What was all that about?" Kat said, still clutching the plate.
She followed him to the back of the stall.
"Listen to this," Zet said.
When he explained the way he'd argued with the man, Kat said he was showing off. Still, he was pretty sure she looked impressed. And that was before he told her about the reward.
"Twenty deben!" she practically shouted. "That's more than we make in three months!"
Zet grinned.
Kat looked skeptical. "But I don't see how you can find the thief."
"Think about the sandals," Zet said. "I told him they didn't match, but I didn't tell him I knew where the sandal-owner lived."
"But you don't know—" She paused. He watched the realization dawn in her eyes. "That doorstep we pass, on our way home."
Zet nodded. "How many times have you grabbed my arm and made me look at those stupid sandals, lined up side-by-side, even though they're two different designs?"
Her mouth hung open. "Zet, that's true." Kat's face was bright. He could see her imagining writing the entry—twenty copper deben reward for finding a thief—on her pottery shards.
"I'm going to go there," he said. "Watch the stall."
Kat grabbed her brother's wrist. "Wait."
"What is it?"
"Be careful."
"Of course I'll be careful," he scoffed. Then, seeing she was truly concerned, he grinned at her and gave her braids a tug. "Don't worry about me, little sister."

(Read Chapter One Here)
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