Ali Selim Pasha lay, naked, hirsute, and slim, yet muscular and god-like in youthful, pampered form, on his back on a low divan in El Hakim’s hashish den in the Greek district of Cairo, Egypt. The pipe he was smoking was only lightly laced with hashish, as he wanted to be in touch with all his sensations and conscious of his surroundings. He had picked this night to finally have his way with the Greek boy and all of the arrangements were in place. He was holding the nearly spent pipe in one hand and was gripping the woman’s waist with the other.
The curvy Greek woman, naked save for her many bangles on wrists, ankles, ears, at her waist, and around her neck, was straddling his hips, facing him, and slowly riding his cock to the soft jangle of her bangles. She was leaning over him and staring into his mesmerizing eyes, black as obsidian. She was palming his well-developed chest with her small hands, rubbing the swirls of black, curly hair there, thumbing his taut nipples. He was young, virile, muscular, and hung. Fatima didn’t mind a bit riding the young pasha’s shaft when he visited El Hakim’s.
Although his hips were moving and he was thrusting up into the woman’s cunt as she bore down on his pelvis, the main focus of the pasha’s attention was elsewhere, following the fourteen-year-old Greek boy, Niko, as the family-less boy from the streets, who worked evenings in the den to keep himself fed, moved from divan to divan, refilling the hashish pipes. The boy, dressed in a white tunic that came down to his knees and showed shapely calves, was a comely lad. He was half Greek and half Egyptian, favoring the Greek and enjoying a very favorable and exotic aspect overall. Ali’s eyes weren’t the only ones following the boy’s movement, and Ali knew if he didn’t pluck the cherry soon himself, some other man would. The boy’s hair was black and curly, his eyes the color of emeralds. He had a ready smile.
He smiled shyly at Ali Selim Pasha as he took the hashish pipe out of the Egyptian’s hands, refilled it, returned it, and moved on. Their fingers touched for a second or two longer than necessary as the pipe was passed and the boy batted his long eyelashes at the pasha. Ali’s eyes followed the boy around the room, while Fatima rode his cock in exaggerated motions forward and back, side to side, rotating as if she were riding a camel across the sand dunes, all the time her bangles softly jangling.
Hours later, as Niko left the hashish den for the night, the compartment door of a nearby black carriage opened and the man inside called to Niko. After a bit of a hesitation, Niko climbed up into the carriage.
The boy was reluctant at first, despite the offer of money, the sensuality of Ali Selim Pasha, the half-readiness in thought beforehand of the boy, and the expertise of the pasha’s seduction. The lad had never been with a man before. He had thought of it and he was attracted to the pasha and very impressed--and perhaps more than a little frightened--with the beauty of the man’s body and the size of his cock, but he had never had the courage to act on his thoughts. But, as the carriage moved slowly through the sleeping Cairo streets, seemingly toward no specific destination and with no particular time to arrive there, the handsome, muscular, and hung pasha wore the boy’s resolved down.
It didn’t take long to have the boy naked--he was only wearing the tunic and a loin cloth, and he slowly melted to the pasha, as Ali held him in his lap, covered him with kisses, and fondled his sweet, small body. The man held the boy close, stroking his cock and murmuring in the boy’s ear until, with a low sob, Nikos gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. The boy moaned as he lay on the small of his back on the seat, his legs hooked on the pasha’s shoulders, as Ali knelt between his legs and kissed and tongued his virginal hole and then took the boy’s pert cock in his mouth. The boy cried out and clutched at the pasha’s head as, while still sucking on the boy’s cock, he penetrated Niko’s anal opening with a finger. There was no one but the carriage driver to hear his muffled protestations, however--and no one to care if they had.
In any even the protestations sank into groans and then moans, as Ali worked his finger--and then two fingers--in and out of the boy’s passage. Nikos came with a jerk and a lurch in Ali’s throat and collapsed back into the seat.
The boy writhed and was quite vocal again, as Ali turned him on the seat, his knees on the floor of the carriage, his chest on the seat cushion, and his arms raised over his head, his hands clawing at the top edge of the carriage seat, as placing his knees on either side of the boy’s hips, grabbing the boy’s hands with his, mounting the boy’s ass, and working his thick cock inside the virginal hole, the pasha began to pump the channel.
“Too hard; too deep,” the boy cried out in a tortured voice. “Have mercy, master. Not so hard, not so much. Oh! I cannot ... you cannot...” Ali tightened his hold on the boy’s small, lithe body, and fucked on, stroking him hard, mining him deep.
“Open to me. Relax and open,” he demanded, not relenting to seizing from the boy what the pasha wanted. “I’m inside you now. You’re undone. Give it all to me. You are mine.”
As Ali continued sliding his cock in and out, forcing the boy’s channel walls to stretch to his needs, the boy’s cries sank into groans and grunts and then to whimpers and muffled sobs.
After the pasha had torn the boy’s virginity from him, he laid the trembling boy on his back along the carriage seat and stretched out over him, taking most of his weight on his elbows on either side of the boy’s chest and on his knees on either side of Niko’s thighs. He kissed away the boy’s tears and continued kissing him on the mouth, face, throat, and nipples, as the boy’s panting decreased and his moans turned to sighs. Ali explored the boy’s ripe body with a hand, pulling moans out of him as he fondled sensitive spots. Eventually, the boy put his hand over Ali’s and, whether he realized it or not, guided the hand to the more sensitive areas.
“It is done now,” Ali murmured to the boy. “Only pleasure when we do it again.” That was not quite the case, but the second time was, indeed, less traumatic for the boy. He gurgled something in reply, but Ali could not translate what it was--nor did he care. His cock had been inside the boy and would be inside the boy again--and again until the boy wholly surrendered to him. And it would all happen this night.
By the time Ali was hard and ready to take the boy again, Niko was more welcoming, spreading and bending his legs, placing his feet flat on the deep seat cushion, and raising his pelvis when Ali placed a pillow under the small of his back. This time the boy was more relaxed, he opened more, and the cock slid more freely, bringing a higher proportion of pleasure to the pain, and the boy’s passage muscles became more adapt at clinging to the cock as it rubbed past and rippling over it. When Ali slid inside him more freely, enjoying the response of the muscles of the walls undulating over his shaft, and started to work the boy more freely with his thick, hard cock, Niko’s cries and moans were more accepting and he moved his pelvis with the fuck, his hands this time gliding into the pasha’s luxuriant black head hair, gripping handfuls of hair, and gripping and releasing in the rhythm of Ali’s slow, deep thrusts inside his channel.
“Master, oh master,” he murmured, and at last surrendered to whispering a “Yes, yes, yes, like that master. There. Again. Oh, yes, master. YES!” The boy ejaculated again. The chase was over. Ali Selim Pasha knew he’d conquered another boy. He fucked on, the boy’s knees now hugging his hips and moving in consort with the rise and fall of the man’s pelvis, Niko’s head arched back, his eyes blankly staring at the padded side of the carriage walls behind his head, his full concentration still on the thick cock inside him, moving in and out, increasingly forcing the pain out to be replaced by pleasure, a small, satiated smile on his lips. Then a long sigh as he felt his master flinch and the warm flow of the man’s cum deep inside him.
After fifteen minutes of kissing and fondling, this time Niko letting his hands roam as well, Ali was hard again.
“You are mine,” he whispered in the boy’s ear.
“Yes, master, I am yours.”
“You will do what I command of you.”
“Show me that you are willing, that you want it. Ride me. Ride me like you saw Fatima ride me earlier this evening.” Placing his hands on the boy’s hips, Ali rolled the two of them over on the seat so that Niko was on top. With a sigh, Niko moved a knee over Ali’s thighs, as Ali held his cock erect. The boy slowly descended on the shaft and, palms on Ali’s pecs and staring down into Ali’s eyes with a stare of want, the boy rode the cock to a mutual ejaculation.
Eventually, as Ali lay on top of Niko again, his cock flaccid but buried in the boy’s channel, the two of them dozing, the carriage stopped in front of a strong, double door, carved with images of erect phalluses, plump ball sacs, and the outlines of men stretched out on top of boys, in a compound wall. The doors opened and two shadowing figures appeared. An exhausted Niko was only half conscious when Ali handed him out to the carriage driver who, in turn transferred him to the two men, who withdrew with him into the courtyard of the boy brothel and closed the doors through which the fourteen-year-old just-deflowered Greek boy, Niko, would never again emerge.
For Ali Selim Pasha, the challenge was over, the victory complete, the evening’s game quite satisfying.
The times were such that it was folly for anyone of European visage to walk the avenues and alleys of Cairo alone. It had been four years of fear and chaos in Cairo capped by the assassination in the city in November, 1924, of the British governor general of Sudan, Sir Lee Stack. The city was caught in the vice of the British pressuring the Egyptian king to bow to the client state demands of British foreign policy needs and the upstart Wafd party in Egypt pressing to end British influence altogether.
Viscount Edmund Allenby, British high commissioner for Egypt and Sudan and sponsor of the creation of a sovereign Egypt, was taking a hard line, demanding that Egypt apologize, prosecute the assassins, and pay a crippling indemnity. The Wafd was taking an even harder line, sending bandits out into the streets to assail and kidnap for exorbitant ransom any European or British sympathizer it could lay its hands on. Egyptian girls and boys disappeared without a trace and no one much looking for them.
In response, the foreign community, in its arrogance and confidence, did what it always did--it donned its tight-fitting costumes of the latest style in Europe, completely ignoring the demands for cooler wear of the Egyptian deserts, and it went to Shepheard’s for dinner and to see and be seen in sophisticated and oblivious London splendor.
For its part Shepheard’s Hotel, occupying a commanding spot in Cairo near the banks of the Nile, was doing what it did best--perpetuating a life of European opulence as it had done for the past eight years, without a thought to the tension and forming revolution in the street.
On this night, the hotel was in full cry, its rooms fully booked by those coming and going--archaeologists in abundance following the opening of the tomb of the boy pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in the Theban hills of the Valley of the Kings a mere two years previously; the families of British military officers meeting their sons, fathers, and husbands on furlough down from action in the uprisings in Sudan; and the occasional inveterate wealthy European and American tourist in search of adventure and danger and the right to say they were there first. Its public dining and party rooms were overflowing with revelers grasping for the glories and privileges of yesteryear and trying to shut out the cries for change and independence from the Egyptian street.
And down a long, not easily found corridor at the rear of the hotel, the men of power and position in Egypt moved to and from a special dining room not marked on any public sketch of the hotel: the Gentlemen’s Dining Room. Here no skirt was seen or swished. No man of only middling import was permitted entrance. Here among the stark white, starched tablecloths and napkins, the gold-rimmed china, the solid-silver plate, and a blue haze of smoke rising to the pinnacle of the coffered roof above a square room, centered by a three-tiered bubbling fountain, dining galleries bordering a central area, and stained-glass clerestory windows on three walls, dined the brains, financial backbone, literary heart, and military muscle of the British empire presence in the Mediterranean and northern Africa.
Dining that evening, on the western balcony tier--being denied access to the ground-floor, central hall by his ethnic origin even though his position both as a political and financial force and a literary light was supreme--was Ali Selim Pasha, scion of a family that traced its origins back to Abraham’s tent and that had traded off ruling status in Egypt with only two other families for the past two centuries.
Ali was listening to his dining companion, the minister of culture in the current regime--and, not incidentally, his cousin--while trying his best not to draw the attention of those throughout the dining room--and particularly those Europeans permitted in the dining area below. Ali was somewhat of a recluse, but his books--many considered a bit racy and suggestive--were all the rage of the British colonial empire at the moment.
He was a man of mystery--fabulously wealthy, average sized but quite well-built of stature, powerfully connected to all factions in Egypt, cerebral, sharp-tongued, and bigger-than-life handsome. When the British social scientists argued that the Arab could come close to becoming civilized, it was Ali they were imaging.
Many of those below would have loved to invite Ali to descend the social division of the stairs from the balcony seating to the main floor and join them both to break the tedium of the severely limiting, constantly repetitive small talk of their never-changing dinner companions and to be titillated by trying to discover through guarded discussion if half of the nefarious activity attributed to Ali and alluded in his writings were true.
For his part, Ali would have enjoyed descending that staircase just to see and enjoy the shock waves that would reverberate through the stagnant society that was the British expatriate community of Cairo.
As Ali listened to his cousin drone on with half an ear, received messages and gave instructions to a flunkey lurking near the table at frequent intervals, and watched what passed as the cream of the European community in Egypt below watch him and speculate on what he was thinking, his attention was arrested by a flurry of activity at the central door to the lower dining area and the near-simultaneous craning of heads on the ground floor to this entry.
So staid was the privileged foreign community here that Ali, even as rarely as he dined here, could close his eyes and identify exactly where everyone below was sitting.
On this night nearly every chair was filled--with the exception of the table of the club steward, Sir Owen Hartley-Smythe, which sat empty, as well it should, because Sir Owen was deeper down into the continent climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ali held his breath, as did everyone on at the tables below, and trained his eyes, as did everyone in the room except for his inattentive, babbling cousin, as a man and boy of fourteen glided into the room, and, walking behind a proud, strutting maître d’, were ushered to the club steward’s table. The table was located next to the fountain, almost in the center of the room--and on a dais above the floor level, so that it could be seen from any vantage point in the dining room. Headwaiters in black tails and white gloves rushed forward and pulled chairs, faces reverently lowered, as the two settled in their own gilded thrones, and, for a brief moment the two were lost to view by a bevy of table waiters in black pants and starched white shirts and also wearing immaculate white gloves who revolved around them, making them comfortable, filling the wine glass of one, explaining the menu, suggesting specials and particular delicacies, and taking orders.
There was nothing special about the older man. He was tall and florid, strongly built but beginning to lose the battle with corpulence. He was dressed in a gray pin-stripe suit and had solicitor and family retainer written all over his countenance.
Ali dismissed him immediately, as would have any of the diners below if they were not racking their brains on just who this might be who was not only received in the Gentleman’s Dining Room at Shepheard’s but who also was welcome at the club steward’s table.
Some of the men, including Ali, were absorbed in scrutinizing the boy with him. And, like Ali, they were undressing him and dreaming of all they would love to do with him.
The boy obviously was European. He was white. That was the first image of the young man that struck Ali. And it wasn’t because he was Caucasian, even though he was. It was rather because he was dressed entirely in stark white. A beautifully cut supper suit that was immaculately white and fit him as only a richly and expensively cut suit could do. But the white wasn’t contained to that. His hair, set in curls around his achingly beautiful face, with heavy-lashed sultry eyes and full, pouting lips, was white blond. And his skin was as the milk-creamiest white marble--almost translucent. Ali immediately surmised that he was ill or had been ill--and it made him want to hold the boy and stroke him and tell him everything would be all right, that Ali would protect him and make everything all right. And then, when the boy was most vulnerable, open and trusting, Ali wanted to penetrate and conquer him, to make him moan and purr.
Such was the sensuousness and compelling vulnerability of the lean, but perfectly formed--and diminutive, if his dining companion could be judged as anything but a giant in comparison--boy that Ali’s imagining went well beyond the instinct to protect and cradle. He wanted to possess this young man--sexually. He wanted to lay his hand on the boy’s marble breast and feel the quickening of the beating of his heart and devour his eyes with his own, watching for the sizzling surrender at moment of the entry of his justifiably proud cock into the boy’s passage. Ali knew that that boy must be virginal--every shred of his demeanor screamed of this. And, as had happened so many times before, Ali reasoned that he must be the first.
He tore his eyes from the boy--but only with great effort--and scanned the room, where conversation had initially halted completely, but the buzzing of queries and gossip slowly rebuilt while all eyes in the room remained glued on these mysterious interlopers. There was no doubt of the topic of their renewed discussion. And among these men of power and wealth and position, Ali was able to pick out one here and two there--more than would be imagined--of men who were watching the boy as attentively as Ali was. And who wanted to possess him--sexually--as achingly as Ali had. Ali knew most of these men--biblically--and he had taken the virginity and initiated “the life” for more of the young men in the room than he could count on his hands.
Ali was a seducer of men and boys--preferably of boys of the same age as this white-haired beauty in the dining room below. And whispered about, even within the colonial community, were tales of his prowess and staying power, and, most especially, his endowments. He knew he was referred to as the Stallion of Heliopolis, Heliopolis being the suburb of Cairo where his family’s stronghold palace, its origins traceable back to the pharaohs, was located. The appellation amused Ali, and he was fond, in the wake of a conquest while his prey was still moaning of being split unto death, of laughing and asking if mere “stallion” did him justice.
“Who is that? Do you know?” he asked abruptly, interrupting his cousin in midsentence on a request to recite poetry at a museum opening in Alexandria.
“Who? What? Where?” the cousin, confused by being put off stride just as he was getting to the crux of why he had invited Ali to dine here, sputtered.
“Down there. At the steward’s table. You must have been the only man in the room who missed their entrance.”
“What? Where? Oh, I believe that is Sir John Naylor. Solicitor to Allenby, I think. Top drawer. Noble firm, offices in London, on the Continent, and even in America, I think. Some place called Boston. People genuflect as his passage, I understand. There was some sort of scandal. Whisperings of something sordid. The Prince of Wales or something. But it only seemed to add to his stature. Incomprehensible these English. They need to go, the whole lot of--”
The cousin suddenly realized where he was and what he was saying, and his jaw shut with a snap that sounded like the crack of a rifle and caused the turning of the heads nearby. He turned ashen and looked as if he might be in the need of a bucket--which, in Shepheard’s would have been silver with crystal handles and delivered by a ramrod-straight-backed man in livery and white kid gloves.
“Mind your tongue in here, cousin,” Ali said. But he said it with amusement and almost a sense of detachment. This wasn’t one of his favorite cousins, and Ali was trained to go blank at any hint of partisanship. He supported his causes, but it was a family trait to know what and how to balance and to forever land on your feet. Lately, the effort had been taxing, though. Both the British and the Wafd were increasingly demanding palpable display of loyalties. Ali felt that it might be time for another prolonged visit to Paris, Rome, and Istanbul. “And I don’t mean the old pile in gray,” he continued. “Who is the boy with him?”
There was a pause, and then a flustered whisper. “You can’t have him, Ali. There are boys here who not even you can touch.”
“I didn’t ask for an assessment,” Ali snapped. “I asked for an identification.”
“I believe his name is David Ames. American. Fabulously wealthy family and he has inherited it all. Coal and railroads, I believe.”
“Inherited it all? How so? He looks like he’s barely in his teens.”
“The lad is fourteen, I’ve been told. Stunning, isn’t he? But I said you can’t have him, Ali. It would be the undoing of all of us. I can see how you look at him. I know you want them barely baked.”
“Just answer the question, cousin. How has he come to be so rich and to be here in Egypt? Surely he’s not traveling alone.” It would be too much to hope that the boy was here unchaperoned.
“It will do you no good. He came with a phalanx of guardians. I don’t know of any visitor as protected and well-connected as--”
Ali scrunched down at the table, and hissed in his cousin’s ear. “I will lay him on his back on the golden table in my study, and slowly peel his clothes from him as he whimpers and begs me in despair, and I will lower my face to his nipples and cause him to cry out and then do so again, more plaintively, more pleadingly, as I work my oiled fist into his virginal hole in preparation for mounting him with my even larger--”
“Please cousin, please, be silent,” the cousin hissed in consternation. He was beginning to sweat.
“Then answer my simple question. It is just a question of information. It is no concern of yours why I ask.”
“His parents--I believe he was an only child--were killed in an accident on their own railroad, I understand. He was crushed by event and his minders have done all they can to amuse him and pull him from his depression. He had expressed interest in the excavation of Tutankhamen’s tomb, and he had done no more than mention it before an expedition was launched. The river barge Isis has been chartered and they leave for Karnak on the Nile in the morning. Or so I’ve heard. I was consulted, I’ll admit, about present conditions in Cairo, and I counseled that they get on the Nile as quickly as possible.”
“A pity,” Ali murmured. Just the night. I believe it would take longer than that.
The cousin relaxed, feeling the crisis was over. Ali was going to see reason. That was unusual for him. Usually, the stronger the challenge, the more interested he was. When he had taken the young son of the pope the previous spring, he had had to work his way through waves of Swiss guards and literally pull him off the cock of the Austrian prince. But he had done it--and subsequently had enjoyed the Austrian as well.
“The gall,” Ali hissed, which caused the cousin to look up sharply. He followed Ali’s gaze and focused on the center of his attention quick enough to see Layton Small, an assistant of Allenby’s who was functioning as the de facto police chief of the city of Cairo--known here as the Mamur Zapt--and was using a heavy hand in dealing with all signs of dissent he could put his finger on, appear from somewhere in the swirl of diners and approached the steward’s table.
The cousin looked on in horror as he listened to Ali’s heavy breathing and watched the man in gray and youth in white rise and shake hands with Small. At a gesture from the gray-suited man, the police chief sat down at the table. Immediately behind him stood a Nubian in the uniform of the Egyptian police, a veritable mountain of solid muscle of a man. The cousin knew that Small’s life was in constant danger, and he wasn’t surprised that he kept a guard at his elbow at all time.
The presence of the Nubian in this position was no more threatening to the social standards than were the army of Egyptian and Sudanese waiters working the room. All were virtually invisible to those who were there to dine--and to be served properly as they had been at Shepheard’s for eighty years.
“The Prick,” Ali growled. “Always the opportunist.”
Ali had caroused with Small on more than one occasion in the Greek section of the city and the two had taken turns fucking pairs of Greek boys in El Hakim’s hashish den, passing them back and forth and quizzing the boys on which of the men had a thicker cock and more taxing fuck technique.
The cousin almost swallowed his tongue, knowing the ways of Ali as he did. He might have at least chuckled at the absurdity of what his cousin had said, if he didn’t know what was at stake here. Small was as corrupt as they came in Egypt, which was saying much, and was a notorious user of man flesh, the younger the better. He preferred young Egyptian men, effeminate ones--dancers usually--but the cousin could see that the boy in white was so exotic that Small could easily be aroused by him.
Although Ali was trembling with emotion beside him, the cousin saw this as a relief. Ali would have to bow to the inevitable and let this one pass. The challenge was just too great and the time for seduction was too short. This beautiful boy deserves taking time with in the seduction, Ali thought. He must be played until he begs for the cock the first time.
His attention was snapped back to reality, though, when Ali called his flunky over and whispered in his ear. The cousin watched in building terror as the message was conveyed through a chain of increasingly senior waiters until the maître d’ was at the shoulder of the man in gray at the steward’s table.
The man looked up at the balcony and then whispered to the maître d’ and the diners held their knives and forks in abeyance as the message transited back up the staircase of social barrier, and the head waiter of the balcony leaned down and whispered a message to Ali.
Everyone in the room could read the message in Ali’s frozen reception.
“I’m sorry, Ali Selim Pasha,” the waiter intoned with trembling voice, “but Sir John says it would not be convenient for them to join you in the smoking room following supper. He says his ward is weary and they must embark on the Isis for an early start in the morning.”
“Thank you,” Ali responded in an icy tone that made the head waiter’s knees begin to buckle. “Do they know who I am?”
“Yes, Pasha. That was made quite clear to them. But they aren’t from--”
“Please offer my appreciation for the consideration of the invitation and provide them a bottle of your best champagne as a token of my regard.”
Bowing and scraping, the waiter hurried off to do Ali’s bidding, grateful for the opportunity to provide the service--and even more grateful for the excuse not to be in the balcony as Ali seethed.
For the next half hour, Ali sat, sinking ever deeper into his chair and into a dark anger, not listening to his cousin, who was doing everything he could to distract the focus of Ali’s attention. Ali’s attention was focused on the silver bucket stand close behind the side of the man in the gray suit, as waiter after waiter tried to fill his glass from the champagne bottle couched in the bucket--and was repeatedly rebuffed so that not a drop of champagne was being consumed. At no time did the man in gray look up at the balcony. The boy in white did scan the room and linger his gaze at the balcony from time to time, but Ali didn’t see that. His attention was plastered to the sliver ice bucket and the rejected champagne bottle.
At the end of the half hour, announcing his movement by a deep rumble from within, Ali abruptly stood, sending china and silver and crystal scattering across his table and onto the floor. An army of waiters descended on the table to chase the errant implements, dab at the stains on Ali’s black silk evening suit, and apologize abjectly for sins they had not committed.
Ali was flushed with anger, standing straight and majestically, looking like a god of wrath. The movement did not go unnoticed by anyone in the dining room--anyone but the gray-suited solicitor and the white-suited boy, that is. Indeed, every eye had been surreptitiously watching Ali since the delivery of the first invitation, and all lips were being moistened with tongues in anticipation of his reaction to the refusal of his gift. Layton Small seemed to look especially amused by the little drama playing out right under his nose.
This simply was not done in the Gentlemen’s Dining Room of the Shepheard’s Hotel. None of the men in their lifetime could remember such an instance--and memories had to be searched for any inkling of precedent, which seemed to be couched in tales of sunrise duels on the broad lawn between the hotel and the Nile and tragic funerals.
“Cousin, please. They are looking,” the cultural minister croaked in a strangled voice. He reached out to tug at Ali’s sleeve, but his hand was roughly brushed away.
“I will go now,” Ali said in a menacing tone. He snapped his fingers and his flunky appeared at his side. Whispered instructions were given, and the flunky disappeared into the shadows.
“But we cannot go yet, cousin,” the minister hissed. “I told the guards to come back at eleven. We cannot go without guards. You know the streets. We cannot. It’s not safe. You’ve had threats. So I have I. We must wait for--”
“You may wait, as you wish, cousin. I will not.”
And then Ali was on the move. And accompanied by a rising gasp from the diners from one wall to the other, he slowly, and with iron-rod-straight back, descended the stairs from the balcony rather than leaving via the balcony door into the hotel proper. Each and every diner felt the lash of the snapping of the taboo on the staircase, as, with an “I dare anyone” glare and a carriage of righteous indignation, Ali slowly descended the stairs and departed, head held high--by the main door.
You could have heard a pin drop. For a full five minutes. And then the buzzing started. The buzzing of a hundred hives.
Through it all, the man in gray sat, facing away from the main door, muttering instructions to his ward, who was peeping surreptitiously under charcoal lashes toward the door--seeing the majestic progress of the imposing figure of the Egyptian man without having an iota of an inkling what was causing all of the tension.
When the door to the main dining floor had clicked shut and two headwaiters belatedly positioned themselves in front of the closed panels, the man in gray motioned to a waiter and, as the buzzing gained strength, he watched his glass and that of the city’s police chief being filled with champagne from the iced bottle in the silver bucket at his elbow, and then he saluted the police chief and tossed off the champagne. A waiter was immediately at his elbow to refill his glass.
Within hours the foreign community was abuzz with reports of what the nearest diners heard the man in gray then say.
“I’ve heard that conditions had become lax out here--Allenby told me that--but I had no idea they were now letting natives in the lobby of Shepheard’s, let alone in the Gentleman’s Dining Room. What is the world coming to, one wonders.”
The dramatic departure of Ali Selim Pasha took all of the fizz out of the evening in the Gentlemen’s Dining Room at Shepheard’s. Nothing was going to happen that evening to top that, and many of the gentlemen were suddenly remembering forgotten engagements and bustling off to start spreading the word of the latest affront on civilization inflicted at the very center of proper society.
Those at the steward’s table also rose soon thereafter, Sir John and Layton Small adjourning to the men’s smoking lounge for a cigar, brandy, and some private words, with the boy, David Ames, being sent off under the protection of the Nubian policeman to finish his studies for the day in one of the receiving rooms off the main lobby before Sir John was ready for them to ascend to their rooms at Shepheard’s.
The receiving room was deserted other than David and his guard as David sat at a writing desk and poured over the textbook on Egyptian history Sir John was requiring him to read in preparation for the trip up the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. Sir John was a strict taskmaster when it came to David’s studies. He was endeavoring to give the boy a classic university education without the benefit of a university faculty. David had always been held in seclusion by his family as being sensitive, delicate, and prone to illnesses, and Sir John, while striving to educate David for the responsibilities of an industrialist in his adulthood, was keeping with the regimen originally set by the parents.
No one bothered to consult David on what he wanted to do in life. His inheritance was so tied up in stipulations until he reached the age of twenty-one, seven years hence, that he was as encumbered by the wishes and desires of Sir John, his guardian, as he had been by his smothering parents. And Sir John had his hands full with keeping the hands of David’s grasping uncles and aunts and cousins from wheedling big chunks of the estate from David’s hands even before he could gain control over it--and his life.
David wasn’t interested in becoming a coal and railroad tycoon. All of this study Sir John forced on him was boring to David, and he only did it because Sir John was a tyrant and could be an even worse one when his wishes weren’t being attended. This trip, even, was more a function of Sir John’s interests than his. David cared nothing for dead things--for this boy pharaoh, Tut, who was said to have died young and perhaps under suspicious circumstances. David cared more about the living--and he wondered when he would be permitted to live, to feel, to experience. He wasn’t even sure what was out there to experience, and although there were ideas and urges that moved him, Sir John was the last one he wanted to discuss these with.
The idea of Egypt didn’t repel him. It wasn’t that, and he was perfectly happy to be taking this adventure. But it wasn’t the dead things of archaeology that attracted him. It was the romance of the place, the dashing, swarthy men in the flowing tunics they wore and he’d read about in his novels--their sparkling white dishdashas, or thwabs, as some called them--although it had been a disappointment to him to thus far see the Egyptian men stiffly wearing the same suffocating European dress as he did. Like that man in the dining room, the one who was the focus of so much attention. He was handsome and mysterious looking--and dashing as well. David wondered what he would look like in a dishdasha--or even less.
To David, Egypt and all of the Near East was the romance and dashing adventure that he had found in those novels he had read before Sir John discovered he had them and confiscated them. David’s favorite had been one entitled “The Prince of Sands,” which David had found fascinating and was just discovering to be titillating and suggestive--not suggestive as in men with women but as in men with other men--as well when Sir John found him with it and took it from him.
Where was that Egypt, David wondered.
A waiter came in and moved a porcelain cup of tea from a tray and placed it on the desk beside the book on archaeology David was unsuccessfully trying to focus on. Watching David carefully to see his preferences, the waiter, a boy not much older than David, slender and willowy and of dusky complexion and flashing black eyes, expertly dealt out sugar cubes and poured cream until David signaled he was satisfied. But David wasn’t really satisfied. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t be in the smoking room, enjoying a cigar and brandy just as Sir John and that pudgy, drab-looking policeman were doing. Why was he still, at nearly twenty--well nearly nineteen, at least--being treated like a child? What was wealth and position--and youth--worth if they could not be spent.
David heard a moaning noise in the corner of the room, and he looked around to find that the Nubian guard had the waiter trapped in a corner and was fondling him and whispering to him in insistent tones. The waiter looked frightened out of his senses and completely out of his depth in how to respond to these advances. David looked over to the door out into the lobby to see that it was shut--and very possibly locked. The three of them were alone in the room. David gauged the distance between himself and the door, but he could see in an instant that the Nubian would make it there before he did if he made a sudden move in that direction.