The Hundredth Meridian

The Grave Robbers

From the dry wash where they sat in camp chairs beneath an improvised ramada built of box-elder poles with armloads of cut greasewood laid on top, they could just make out, through the brush that obscured the wash, the wide, shallow cave arched thinly across the enigmatic yellow face of the opposing sandstone cliff.  Lance Barber turned his wrist over to read the time.

“The day’s nearly shot already,” he observed.  “Night comes on before you know it down in these godforsaken canyons.  It seems like it’s always later than you think.  Paquito—you have the gear packed up and set to go?”

“All ready, Dr. Barber,” Paquito answered cheerfully.  Paquito was always cheerful and bright; an agreeable boy, almost overeager to please.

“And don’t use your headlamp until we get started climbing this evening.  It’s not a toy, and we can’t afford to waste more batteries.”

There were three of them beneath the ramada, waiting for dark: a man, a woman, and an Indian boy.  Lance Barber, though he liked to describe himself as a grave robber, was actually an archaeologist who had conducted unauthorized diggings in the Mediterranean Basin, Chaldean Mesopotamia, and northeast Africa, where he had located a hitherto undiscovered Coptic Christian burial site, from which he had removed rare artifacts worth a...

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