Page 54

The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:11

Kurt snapped his head around as the gunfire echoed from the depths of the warehouse.

“Damn,” he muttered. He propped himself up to get a better look.

Joe took cover and Kurt turned his attention back down the aisle toward the battle. The man in the tux and woman in the evening gown were exchanging fire with the group who were impersonating the security guards. They were taking shots from two directions, but they didn’t seem to be panicking. Rather, they were systematically dropping back and using single shots as covering fire.

They hastened their retreat when one of the guards went wild with a submachine gun and took out a stack of clay amphorae. Shards of pottery blasted into the aisle and clay dust filled the air. Stray bullets tore through the warehouse, several hitting the glass-walled tank and leaving star chips and hairline cracks in the glass.

The man in the tux dove to avoid the onslaught and then scrambled back to his feet. He grabbed the woman and moved back farther, using the corner of the intersection as a spot to fire from. Kurt listened as the man spoke. “MacD, this is the Chairman. We’re getting pounded in here. We need extraction pronto!”

The woman turned and fired in another direction. “They’re surrounding us, Juan. We need to move now.”

Juan, Kurt thought. Juan Cabrillo?

Juan Cabrillo, Chairman of the Corporation, a man who’d lost a leg helping Dirk Pitt on a NUMA operation years back. He was captain of the Oregon, a freighter that looked like a beat-up old wreck on the outside but which was actually crammed to the gills with the most advanced weaponry, propulsion gear and electronics.

Kurt wasn’t sure what on earth Juan and his friend were doing in the warehouse, but he knew they were in trouble, outnumbered and on the verge of being surrounded. As cross fire kept them pinned down, a third group of guards appeared, rushing down the aisle in front of Kurt and readying a block of C-4 to throw at Cabrillo.

Kurt sprang into action, put his shoulder to the cannon and shoved it toward the glass. It rocked forward in the sling, ramming its nose against the wall of the tank. Cracks slithered diagonally along the glass, but the wall held.

The cannon barrel recoiled in his direction and then began to swing forward again. Kurt pushed even harder. This time, the five-hundred-pound bulk of the cannon slammed home like a battering ram. The glass shattered. Ten thousand gallons of water poured out and swept across the floor. It crashed into the men with the explosives and knocked them into the shelving on the far side of the aisle.

Kurt was swept out, winding up on top of one of the gunmen. He reared up and gave the man a thunderous shot to the jaw.

The second assailant was getting to his feet when an object crashed into his head, rifled from somewhere up above by Joe Zavala’s strong arm.

Kurt went for the block of explosives, pulled the two electrical probes out of it and shouted in Cabrillo’s direction, “Juan, this way!”

Cabrillo glanced up the aisle, hesitating, as if it were a ruse.

“Hurry!” Kurt shouted. “You?

re getting surrounded.”

?re getting surrounded.”

The hesitation passed. “Go,” Cabrillo said to his partner.

She ran without hesitation as Cabrillo fired off another round before joining her and crouching down beside Kurt.

“Kurt Austin,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “What brings you to this shindig?”

“Saving your hide, by the looks of it,” Kurt said. “And you?”

“Long story,” Cabrillo replied. “It’s related to the thing in Monaco.”

Even though he’d been busy, Kurt had heard of the destruction at the Monaco Grand Prix. For the past few days, it had been competing with the incident on Lampedusa for airtime in the twenty-four-hour news cycle. He grabbed a pistol from the man he’d knocked cold and joined the battle.

The men posing as guards took cover. Facing three defenders instead of two, and having seen their reinforcements wiped out by the flood, they quickly became more cautious. Stalemate.

“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” the woman said.

Cabrillo made a stab at it in his understated way. “Old friend” was all he said.

Kurt looked her over. He wondered who she might be. “I don’t suppose your name is Sophie?”

She glared at him. “Naomi,” she replied.