Grim turned to Goodenough, who had been listening.
“Do I win the bet, sir?”
“Ten piastoes!” said Goodenough. “Yes. Narayan Singh says Noureddin Ali was gone by the time they reached the wall.”
“Sure, or he’d have brought Noureddin Ali. I’ve been thinking, sir. We’ve one chance left to bag that buzzard. Will you give me carte blanche?”
“Yes. Go ahead.”
Grim crossed the place to the corner where old alligator-eyes stood herded with the other prisoners.
“Are you guilty?” he demanded.
“No. Guilty of nothing. I came out of curiosity to see what was happening here.”
“Thought so. Can you hold your tongue? Then go! Get out of here!”
Alligator-eyes didn’t wait for a second urging, nor stay to question his good luck, but went off in a shambling hurry.
“You are mad!” exclaimed Scharnhoff. “That man is the next-worst!”
“Grim, are you sure that’s wise?” asked Goodenough.
“We can get him any time we want him, sir,” Grim answered. “He lacks Noureddin Ali’s gift of slipperiness.”
He turned to Narayan Singh.
“Follow that man, but don’t let him know he’s followed. He’ll show you where Noureddin Ali is. Get him this time!”
“Dead or alive, sahib?”
“All men are equal in the dark.”
The first thing Goodenough did after Grim had sent Narayan Singh off on his deadly mission was to summon the sheikh of the Dome of the Rock. He himself went to fetch him rather than risk having the sheikh bring a crowd of witnesses, who would be sure to talk afterwards. The all-important thing was to conceal the fact that sacrilege had been committed. But it was also necessary to establish the fact that Zionists had had no hand in it.
“You see,” Grim explained, sitting on the edge of the stone coffin, “we could hold Jerusalem. But if word of this business were to spread far and wide, you couldn’t hold two or three hundred million fanatics; and believe me, they’d cut loose!”
“The sheikh must realize that,” said I. “What do you bet me he won’t try to black-mail the Administration on the strength of it?”
“I’ll bet you my job! Watch the old bird. Listen in. He’s downy. He knows a chance when he sees it, and he might try to cheat you at dominoes. But in a big crisis he’s a number one man.”
While we waited we tried to get an opinion out of Scharnhoff about the coffin and the skeleton inside it. But the old fellow was heart-broken. I think he told the truth when he said he couldn’t explain it.
“What is there to say of it, except that it is very ancient? There is no decoration. The coffin is beautifully shaped out of one solid piece of stone, but that is all. The skeleton is that of an old man, who seems to have been wounded once or twice in battle. The linen is good, but there is no jewelry; no ornaments. And it is buried here in a very sacred place, so probably, it is one of the Jewish kings, or else one of the prophets. It might be King David—who knows? And what do I care? It is what a man sets down on parchment, and not his bones that interest me!”