Page 17

The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:03

“We can’t get you out,” Kurt said.

“We’re not going to last in here much longer,” she replied. “Several of the elderly patients have already fallen unconscious.”

“Does the hospital have a hazardous-materials unit?” Kurt asked. “We could round up some suits from there.”

“No,” she said. “Nothing like that.”

“What about oxygen?” Joe said. “All hospitals have oxygen.”

Kurt nodded. “You’re really earning your pay this week, my friend.”

Kurt held out a hand, made a side-to-side gesture, as if to say it was iffy sometimes.

As Joe feigned great offense, Kurt turned back to the speakerphone. “What floor is your supply room on? We’ll bring you more oxygen bottles. Enough to extend your stay until the Italian military arrives.”

“Yes. That would work,” she said. “Medical supplies are on the third floor. Please hurry.”

Kurt hung up and they went to the elevator. Joe pressed the button and the doors opened to reveal a doctor and nurse slumped in the corner.

Joe went to pull them out, but Kurt waved him off. “No time.”

He pressed 3 and the door closed. When the bell pinged, Kurt moved down the hall while Joe dragged the doctor halfway through the door and left him there.

“Using him as a doorstop?” Kurt mentioned as Joe caught up with him.

“I’m guessing he won’t mind,” Joe insisted.

They found the supply room at the end of the hall and broke in. A cage marked Medical Oxygen was near the back. Kurt pried it open. There were eight green bottles inside. He hoped it was enough.

Joe came forward with a wheeled gurney. “Pile them on this. That way, we don’t have to carry everything.”

Kurt loaded the bottles onto the gurney. Joe strapped them down so they wouldn’t slide off.

They pushed the gurney out through the door, tried to turn and slid into the wall.

“Where did you learn to drive?” Kurt asked.

“These things are harder to maneuver than they look,” Joe replied.

Straightening up, they gathered steam as they headed toward the elevator. Halfway there, they heard another ping and the sound of the second elevator’s doors opening.

“This building must be haunted,” Joe said, continuing on.

“Either the building or its electrical system,” Kurt replied.

As they neared the elevator bank, a darkly tanned figure stumbled out of the second car and fell.

“Help me,” he said, collapsing against the wall. “Please . . .”

Stunned, Kurt parked the gurney and dropped beside the man.

The man’s eyes were hooded at first, but as Kurt leaned close to him they opened and locked on Kurt’s. There was no delirium or fear in those eyes, only deadly malice, which was backed up by the short-barreled pistol the man pulled out and fired.