Part 3: A letter from Isabel
How to begin. Well you have opened my mail so at least you didn’t think it was a bomb.
You should find my Journal, (sorry it smells a bit,) some photographs from the last few years in Cairo and a cheque for £**** (I know it’s a bit short but I didn’t have much to spare.)
I guess I survived it all really so you don’t have to worry if you were which you might not be since I blanked you for 5 years. That was the first thing I wanted to say. I should say sorry next but it hardly seems to merit any value. If I said I have missed our chats these last few years and that it tore me apart every time I ignored one of your calls it might go some way but not enough.
The only way to make ammends that is open to me at this time is to tell you and show you the truth of it all. That is partly why I sent you my journal.
The other reason I sent you my journal was a little more serious. I sent this to you via the front desk at the Ramada shortly before I had to leave Cairo. If they managed to send this to you, then there is every chance in the world that I may be in danger and, for the moment, I cannot contact by you phone or email for fear of putting you in harm’s way.
It’s like you always said, nothing is ever simple when I’m involved. You must keep this to yourself or if you do tell anyone, broadcast it far and wide. It may be the only way that we can call them off but I don’t hold out any hope of them stopping. What I hold in my hands now is far too valuable to be forgotten.
I’m pretty low now dearest Apple but don’t despair. I have help from an unexpected place.
This probably sounds really far fetched but I promise you, read the Journal and you will understand.
Well that has that done. Now to business. I started the Journal when I landed in Alexandria in November 2003 so there are some bits missing you should know.
When I left you on the station that Sunday in October all those years ago, I was completely lost. I think there was a part of me that still thought there maybe a chance with Alan. I sat and listened to you telling me how much of a bastard he was and how it was a good thing I had found out before we had children. Oh god Apple it broke my heart that day when you said those things. We had actually talked about children. I had pictured in my head having his children and growing old with him.
I look back now and wonder if I had pushed him too hard and too soon. I know he loved his career and probably didn’t give a second thought to marriage at that point. I could feel him becoming more distant at the time. After we had the insurance dealt with at the museum we stopped seeing so much of each other. He had that damned Guggenheim sculpture to sort out in Barcelona which meant he was on the phone day and night. I knew he was working with Amanda quite closely. I’d even met her once at the BM. I just thought it was work and that it would smooth out when it was all over.
I didn’t go back to the YMCA straight away when I left you. I went to the British Library and had a bit of that really fattening chocolate cake they serve in the Cafe. I ate the cake and then cried into a very large cup of tea. I stayed there until they decided to kick me out when they closed and then I just wandered around london for a while not knowing what to do. I had your cash in my pocket and it was nagging in my brain that maybe I could get drunk and do a revenge lay. But every time I thought of it, I realised that he had already left me. In his mind I was a free spirit and could do what ever I wanted.
As I was thinking about all of this, I went into automatic pilot. I knew what I was doing in the back of my mind, but I just kept going. I took the the tube back to his place. I still had a key. I think I was going to try and forgive him.
As resolved as I was that I would be strong and take him back on my terms after he had begged forgiveness, I kept this thought of me on my knees and crying; begging him to take me back and cursing Amanda. I decided to let the winds of fortune carry me to whatever lay at the end of the world.
When I unlocked the door of his apartment, I could hear the phone ringing but I had to unset the alarm before I could go up to the front room. I panicked, it might have been the museum calling and I didn’t want them to know I wasn’t living there any more. As a result I botched the alarm code and then had to reset it. By the time I had sorted it all out, the answer phone was talking. At the bottom of the stairs, I listened to the message, waiting for his voice telling the world my forwarding number.
I listened to him speak at first not registering what he was saying but slowly I realised that he had not mentioned me at all. Instead there was a message explaining how he was not available until the 12th November and a forwarding number for emergencies.
As I listened I realised that he had travelled out to Barcelona again. I had forgotten that he had to be with the exhibition for the duration of it’s stay. He wouldn’t be back for weeks. Something in me relaxed at that point. I walked up the stairs to his front room and sat calmly on the sofa. He would be with her out there. It was over between us and there was no going back. He hadn’t even mentioned my contact details. I had been forgotten.
I had a very large gin after that, turned the heating on and slipped into a hot bath. That night I listened Leonard Cohen, (sang along a bit too loud maybe,) and fell asleep on the sofa. It was the most sleep I had allowed myself beyond anxiety in weeks. The mail through the letterbox woke me at ten on Monday.
When I woke I realised that something had changed. I was calm and thinking more clearly than I had in weeks. I hatched a plan to get my revenge on him. It was here that my troubles began and I decided that contacting you would only implicate you in my little scheme. The money you had left me was enough, I couldn’t get you involved in what I did next.
I found the credit card he used for online shopping and started to order some bizarre stuff. At first I started small. I ordered some garden ornaments gnomes and statues. Then I went a bit mad ordered a large deisel powered lawnmover and a hedge trimmer. Then I ordered as much memorabilia as I could find from him three least favourite films, (Thelma and Louise, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and What women want.) I manages to find a huge picture of Mel Gibson in a chrome frame. I ordered them all for the week after he got back as a welcome home present.
After I had shopped away about £2000 I ordered pizza for lunch and started to get ready for work. Then I realised that all my clothes were in storage, (Thanks again to Alan for that one,) so I phoned in sick and took his card shopping in Harrods.
Apple, I had no idea you could spend money so quickly when you are having fun. I bought three new suits for work, a few pairs of Jeans and some really funky T-shirts, and pretty much replaced all my underwear, pyjamas and bits. And then I saw this amazing dress for £950. You would have loved it. (I think I put a picture in of me wearing it.) It was Claret with a low neckline and a cut to drive men wild. It was a perfect fit seeing as I’d hardly eaten anything for three weeks. It was just the thing I needed to get myself noticed at the exhibition launch which was only a week away.
When I had finished, I felt a sense of pride in my accomplishments. I stood by Harrods front doors with seven bags full of clothes and perfume, (and Chocolate,) and hailed a cab back to Alan’s Flat. I had decided that seeing as he was away, I might as well make the most of it and live cheaply for the next two weeks.
So that is why I never got back to you Apple. I couldn’t involve you in theft. I was up to my neck in it and spiralling out of control. I had changed into something else, a butterfly perhaps, and I was enjoying the sunlight while the day lasted.
The week passed by and I was very busy with work. You remember the Coptic exhibition we were planning. It was going to be the biggest collection that had ever ventured out of Egypt and we were still having trouble with the Egyptian cataloging. I spent most of my time in a back room up there going through a seeming random pile of boxes with assorted manuscripts, Photographs, Carvings and artworks. The Egyptian team seemed to know exactly what was in every box but it really was a nightmare.
I spent the nights sleeping on Alan’s Sofa, (I couldn’t face sleeping in his bed again even after I had chenged the sheets for new ones.) The days I spent pouring over artifacts and allocating those for display. I had three junior researchers writing up information plaques from morning to night on everything we were displaying. The big day was set for Saturday evening. Proff. Weaver wanted it like a theme park with sand and false stone structures for the spaces. The place was frantic with set builders and museum workers crawling all over the place. I wore my new suits and not a soul even commented on them.
I think you tried to call me on the phone on that Friday morning but I couldn’t speak you to after what I had done and besides we were having endless meetings about safeguarding and insurance at that point. I so very nearly took that call but now I’m glad I didn’t because the next thing that happened was mind boggling. I still find it sounds crazy when I say it out loud.
That day was pretty anxious for us all. I had to work into the night because we were still short on works from the southern monasteries and settlements. There were 16 crates to go and one of the researchers, (I don’t think you met Melanie,) and I stayed back late to get through them. By 9.30 we had three crates left and seeing as Mel had small ones at home, I sent her home and worked through alone on coffee power. We had nearly enough but needed a centrepiece for a Corinthian column at the forefront. Weaver had chosen a small piece of text from the Chester Beatty but I was convinced we could find something more tangible to impress the patrons.
Rummaging through, I saw that two of them had nothing of any interest but the third one was curious. Wrapped in cloth at the bottom of the crate was near intact oil jar. Jackpot!! I unwrapped it carefully to see if I could find any marks and as I tilted it on end, a pile of sand and dust with a small object wrapped in newspaper fell into my lap.
I was pretty upset to start with. Apart from the newspaper throwing the authenticity into question, I had covered one of my new suits in dirt. Then I unwrapped the newspaper. I mean it Apple you won’t believe this. It was a Rolex watch. A real one all dusty and sand scratched and stopped at 10.32pm.
It had a tan leather strap and it looked like the case was made from platinum. There was a coat of arms engraved on the back and under that some strange marks that looked to have been painstakingly scratched into the surface. When I’d got over the shock, I thought about what I should do with it. If it hadn’t have been for the coat of arms, I would have assumed it belonged to someone from the Cairo Museum. I could have avoided all this Apple. Even then if I had decided to take that watch down to the delegates and declare the find, I wouldn’t be in this horrible predicament.
But you know I wouldn’t have done that. I’ve never been good at sharing the glory for a find. There and then I slipped the damn thing into my pocket for later and checked out the newspaper. It was from the Cairo Times from February nearly twenty years ago. Shoving that in my pocket I turned to the oil jar. Nothing much but it looked like the real thing. The documentation pointed to Dier Anba Samwil around 300AD. It’s a working monastery Apple. I’ve been there since I sent you this.
I think I left the museum that night about one in the morning and went back to Alan’s. The next day I didn’t go in. I pampered myself in readiness for the big night. It wasn’t until a couple of hours before the opening that I remembered the Rolex.
The coat of arms was quite distinct. Four lions rampant with two either side of an inverted sword. It wasn’t hard to find a reference to it, even on Google! And here it come Apple, the bit you will not believe. The Rolex belonged to non other than the Lord Eddie Redmond-Campbell! It’s true. I found six different pictures of him wearing the damn thing. I was so unsure back then it almost felt like someone was playing a colossal joke on me. I even wondered if this was Alan, who had somehow found out what I had done and was slowly plotting his revenge.
The more I looked into it, the more I became sure I was onto something. One of the pictures where he is wearing the watch shows him in Tuscany just a few weeks before the fated Black sea tragedy. He could have been in Egypt at that time Apple. And the best bit, the £200,000 reward was still up for grabs. After 20 minutes of tortured indecision, I sent an email with a picture of the watch to a security firm called Siracuse who were handling the search.
If I’d thought about this a bit longer and done a bit more diggin, I wouldn’t have done anything, but I was pretty much elated at that moment. part of me was thinking how becoming famous would be a great way of polishing off my revenge on Alan. The other was guiltily planning how to repay his credit card and apart from all that, I had made myself late for the opening. So I sent the email, dropped the watch into my hangbag and then ordered myself a car to the museum.
I wore the claret dress with a simple but expensive pendant and a pair of really uncomfortable shoes that put another two inches on me at least. If things had been different, you would have been there with me that night. They red carpeted the Great Russel Street entrance and projected coptic writing onto the outside of the building. Inside the great court they had dimmed the lights and everything was lit by torches with coptic chanting. The patrons loved it and you could see the press cameras flashing all over the place. It was a bit “Indiana Jones” but I suppose that’s the way we pull them in these days.
It’s pretty accurate to say that I got a wee bit tipsy that night on G and T’s. I know I was very flirty with some of the investors, (they loved it!) Even Proff. Weaver had a go a little later on trying to flatter me and offering vague promises of paid work some time in the future. What really got me was the opening ceremony. There was no acknowledgement at all of our team. Everything went to the Cairo delegation who had been pretty useless when it came to doing anything.
The Greek investor, Feodor Sophronia, cut the ribbon on the door. Out of everyone, I felt that he had been the most useful allowing us to set up a dialogue with the coptic church. If it wasn’t for his contacts in the states, we wouldn’t have been able to assemble the collection, the largest coptic exhibition ever assembled outside of Cairo which was due to travel be in new york at christmas. After a few drinks, it’s amazing how a rich and middle aged investor becomes quite attractive to a sheltered young lady like me, (only joking Apps.)
I vaguely remember hanging off his arm for the rest of the evening. We talked about the new sites around egypt and the opportunities for new discoveries. He was very calm and confident, smiling politely if I giggled a little too loud. At the time, he seemed like such a gentleman. In fact at the time he was.
Towards the end of the evening he broke off discreetly and I thought that was the last I would see of him. I got collared by some of the gallery technicians near the drinks table and Weaver had joined them having no success at conversation elsewhere. I was just about to resign myself to a revenge lay in Alan’s bed when Feodor reappeared and asked to speak to me in private.
He asked me in greek if I had any work after the fellowship and I explained that I was at something of a loose end.
He asked me in arabic if I had a passport which I did.
He then asked me in english if there was any reason why I couldn’t leave for Alexandria with him the next day and I lied. No there was no reason I couldn’t leave for Egypt. I wouldn’t have a criminal record when I got there. My head was spinning by now and not just with gin.
By the end of the night, I had a verbal agreement that I would work assisting the cataloging department at the Coptic museum in Cairo. There was a chance I may even be needed at some of the working sites. What would you have done Apps. Would you have gone with the smooth talking rich greek man, or would you have waited out your unemployment for the police to arrest you for fraud?
I decided to skip the country. He had me driven back to Alan’s flat around 11.30 and I staggered in and collapsed on the sofa. I was flying with the angels that night.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realised Alan’s flat had been broken into. Around six in the morning I managed to get myself up and have a shower. I came out of the bathroom, saw the mess and had to throw up. Kneeling there in front of the bowl and thinking fast I made the decision that has led me to my plight.
I’m crying now Apple thinking about what happened next. It wasn’t an easy time but I managed to get my things together, passport and the new clothes, get down to City Airport and fly out to Alexandria with Feodor. And in all that time, he had no idea what had just happened.
I’m surprised you never heard from Alan after what happened to his flat. I imagine he would have been fairly distraught after the break in and even worse when all the gardening junk arrived. Sometimes in the quiet moments, I still wonder if he is still with Amanda or if she has moved on.
How are you Apple? I wish I could speak to you right now. I wish that we were sitting in the Cambridge again having a quite drink upstairs. It seems like a lifetime away, a different person who did all of the things.
You should see me now sitting here writing, dressed in a Niqab, invisible from the others around me. No-one knows where I am now apart from you Apple. My life is in your hands.
That’s everything I can tell you up to where my journal starts. There are things inside which are even more crazy than the Rolex. Read it carefully and guard it with your life.
I don’t think I will ever see you again Apps. This is all I can give you now.
Goodbye the day, good luck to me!