Friday, January 16, 2015

Cairo by Victoria Pitts-Caine Excerpt

Cairo by Victoria Pitts-Caine

Liz McCran and Donnie Barnes travel to Cairo, Egypt, in search of Addie and Gary Wright, who were asked to deliver a mysterious envelope. Within days of their arrival, the couple has vanished. When Liz locates the Wright’s contact, Mr. Moustafa, she receives the first of several riddles.

Rayhan Shenouda, an Egyptian working at the American Embassy, agrees to help but his desire is to win Liz’s heart. Following his traditional customs, and much to her surprise, he proposes within days of their meeting.

Will the Wright’s be found? Can Rayhan and Liz’s love withstand an inevitable collision of cultures and customs? Or will it all end at the hands of a nomad insurgent named Ahmad?


Liz, Donnie, and Rayhan walked to the parking lot. He opened the rear door and she slid into the passenger seat behind the driver’s side, tilted her head, and smiled. Donnie waited for Rayhan to release the trunk lock, loaded their luggage, then sat in the front across from Rayhan.

“How much do you know about your friends’ disappearance?” Rayhan asked as he eased the car onto the busy highway.

Liz caught his eye in the rearview mirror. “Not much, Mr. Shenouda. They’d been missing for two days when you called me.” Her heart pounded against her ribcage and she fought to breathe. “I had been instructed to call her family if anything happened, and when I called Donnie, he and I agreed to come here.”

“This is all you know?” Rayhan murmured. “Fil-mišmiš!”

Liz sat on the edge of her seat and bent forward as she gave Rayhan a gentle, but firm message. “It did happen. Don’t be so skeptical, Mr. Shenouda. Just to let you know, I understand every word you say. We can speak either Arabic or English.”

“I’m sorry, Miss McCran. It is just odd they disappeared with no other information.” Rayhan fixed his eyes on Donnie, who shrugged his shoulders.

“They were here on vacation. I don’t know any more.” Liz sat back in her seat and speculated how she could spend the next few days with not one, but two, headstrong men.

She fell into silent thought as she remembered the weeks right before their vacation, and Addie’s excitement about her first trip to Egypt. Her husband, Gary, as a hobby compared early Christian writings and Egyptian mythology. Liz wondered if this had gotten them into trouble. Had they asked the wrong questions of someone? Addie and Gary were good, decent people. They wouldn’t have knowingly stepped into a smuggling situation. Or could it be an issue of Christianity? They would have been arrested, not missing. Unless…Liz shuddered. She glanced out the tinted window of the sleek, black vehicle and recognized the streets approaching the Embassy. She found an inner strength and forced down the panic rising in her throat.

Donnie and Rayhan discussed something trivial about the weather and she joined their exchange. “Spring in Egyptis a beautiful time, isn’t it, Mr. Shenouda?” Forgiving him for his earlier assumption, she continued. “We shouldn’t have a problem, unless there is a spring sandstorm.”

“It’s a bit early for the Kashmin,” Rayhan offered. “It will not be a problem in the city.”

“No. However, we may not stay in Cairo.” Donnie shifted in his seat to include Liz in the conversation as he continued speaking to Rayhan. “We need to find a gentleman named Mr. Moustafa.”

“It is a very common name,” Rayhan said. “Do you know anything else about him?”

Liz rummaged through a stack of papers she’d brought and hesitated. Should I tell Rayhan about the letter? “His first name is Abubakar.”

“I know of a man with the same name. He lives very close to my Uncle Al Abdul.”

“Can you arrange a meeting with him, Mr. Shenouda?”

“Yes, after we’ve met with Mr. Aston.” Again, Rayhan locked eyes with Liz in the mirror. “Miss McCran, Mr. Barnes, if Abubakar Moustafa is who you are looking for, I believe you are going to be here a while. I think we need to at least be on a first name basis. I request you call me by my given name, Rayhan. May I have permission to use your first names?”

Liz nodded and acknowledged his request. She understood the formality of the tradition. “Who is he and why would he extend our stay?”

“Do you know anything about the Christians here, Liz?” Rayhan glanced at her.

“Some. I’ve worked mainly with the ancient Egyptian culture, but have also studied the beliefs and customs. I probably don’t know as much as I should.”

“And you, Mr. Barnes?” Rayhan questioned.

“I know absolutely nothing. I’m still working on my own Christianity. Go on, though. I find this all very fascinating. Do you think there’s some religious connection to their disappearance?”

“I am a Christian, as is Mr. Moustafa, and we have learned to live secretively. With a population of over eighty million, there are roughly eight to twelve million Christians. We are, and have been, persecuted by our fellow Egyptians and the government.” Rayhan paused as he approached the gate of the Embassy parking lot. He showed the guard his identification, and the entry gate swung open.

“At any rate,” Rayhan said after he’d drove away from the gate, “we are generally careful, fearing danger for not only ourselves, but our community. Mr. Moustafa gambles with his own existence. He is being followed closely. There could be a problem if he is involved in this, even accidentally.”

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