Jezebel Died Dancing - Chapter Twenty-sixKalila and Julie busking at the Warren Old Town Plaza

Despite his promotion-earning prize, Unruh was cranky. He flat refused to let us perform, even though the murder was already solved and a crowd was milling outside.

Ayisha threw open the doors anyway. I gave them drumwork from Susu and the Cairo Cats. Exhibit A deserved its debut onstage, not in a courtroom.

After only two minutes, Unruh switched off the tape. He announced that he would arrest us, too, if we didn't follow his squad car downtown.

I looked for the gorilla, but he was gone. He had loped off like the Lone Ranger.

I had hoped-- I had wished--

Oh, well. Now I was truly alone.

We converged on Morales at police headquarters. We confused him thoroughly. He was able to absorb a tale of romantic interludes in a sarcophagus. He was able to deal with wrestling televangelists and gun-toting sheiks. But a pistol-wielding, poison-administering gorilla was too much.

"He was sexier than any gypsy I ever met," I explained. "I bet he could throw knives."

"And boy, could he play the violin," Sher added. "I like the way he poisoned Nef."

Morales frowned. "You said a gorilla poisoned the suspect?"

"He did not," I said. "That's why she confessed."

"This lady said he poisoned her," Morales insisted.

"He did," Dunya said. "That's why she confessed."

Finally, Morales clutched his hair in both hands and sent us all home. I walked out, still dressed in Exhibit A.

Nef, of course, went to jail. Rex rushed to police headquarters in a tall, dark panic. Sher sat him briskly and compassionately in a straight-backed chair and administered emergency doses of caffeine. I saw him take her hand.

We dragged Florence Nightingale home by way of Martha Moo's frozen yogurt shop. This was Cleo's idea, and a good one. Even Dr. Cluff was able to unbend over a melting white tower studded with sunflower seeds, chocolate candies and pineapple chunks.

He was first in line, followed by Dunya. They began to eat while the rest of us placed our orders.

Cleo elbowed me in the ribs. "Look."

I turned my head.

At a table in the back, Dunya sat helpless behind a mound of ice cream and strawberries. Dr. Cluff was holding her spoon hand.

"Together," he was saying, "we could tape the exorcism dances of the dervishes of Algeria. Together we could lift the flesh from a four thousand year old mummy."

Dunya sighed. "Oh, Dr. Cluff, I don't know what to say."

We all joined their table.

"I don't know what to say," she repeated. "Of course, the tenure track is inviting. But your offer's just not competitive. I received a much better one from the Agency."

She looked up at me with those wide, innocent eyes.

"You mean, the Central Intelligence Agency?" I said. "Who recruited you?"

Dr. Cluff let go. She dug into her strawberries. "I was hired by one of the most renowned operatives who ever lived in the Middle East."

"Who's that?" I said.

"The name," Dunya said, "is Lynx."

"Lynx?" I held my own spoon like a cigarette holder. "The name is Lynx, gentlemen. James Lynx."

Dunya was giggling.

"So Bentley was right," I said. "Colonel John was CIA."

"He's not CIA. He's in community theatre," Cleo said. "He enjoyed pulling your leg."

"Then who was the Lynx in my attic?"

"You'll probably never know." Cleo stirred mocha yogurt and grinned. "A top-notch agent doesn't look like one, and never gets caught. Hey, Ahmed. You still want to buy guns?"

He peeked into the dance bag at her feet. "Y'Allah!"

"Tell you what," she said. "I'll make you a really good deal."

As they fell into paramilitary bargaining, I found myself face to formidable face with Dr. Cluff. "D-d-doctor," I said, "I know I've chosen another path, a path that, well... But I've always kept up with your career."

"Oh?"

I gathered my courage. "Memories of Mohammed should be considered a seminal work. Still, there were quite a few errors of grammar, probably caused by haste. Prophet Among the Ghawazee broke new ground very solidly, but I don't think you fully comprehend the tribal methods of sexual seduction."

I expected him to be angry. Instead, he looked deeply into my eyes.

"Carmen," he said, "I've always known that you are the only one who--"

Yes? Yes?

"The only one who could ever--"

Say it, Dr. Cluff!

"The only one who could ever summon the gall to critique the work of a distinguished professor. I'm glad you recognize good research. On Monday, you will call your doctoral committee. We'll schedule a defense of your dissertation."

Then, to my astonishment, he smiled.

We drove to the airport and put Ahmed, buckskins and all, on his Learjet. Before he boarded, he gave Cleo a great wad of cash. She handed over the dance bag. They shook hands.

"Pleased to have you aboard, sayyid," she said. "We'll be in touch."

Fatima hugged us goodbye and climbed in after him, all shrouded in black. "Come visit us," she said to me.

"And stay in the women's house?"

She winked. "Only until midnight."

We watched their jet disappear in the night.

Cleo and Sher wished me goodnight. Dunya drove off, leaving Dr. Cluff standing wistfully on the tarmac beneath the Big Dipper.

Finally, even the professor went home. I pulled my veils tighter against the clear night wind.

There was nothing to do now but dance.



Thanks for reading! Come dance with us and be a bellydancer too! Learn more on our home page, or send us an email! --Safira

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