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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:14

“What do you think is going to happen when they find out we have only captured men to trade and no tablets?” Joe asked.

“Gunfire, explosions and widespread chaos,” Kurt replied.

“So . . . the usual,” Joe deadpanned.

“Another day at the office,” Kurt said.

Joe laughed lightly, but Renata offered only a wan smile.

“Here’s the real problem,” she said finally. “Even if we had the tablets to trade, they may not want to give up the D’Campions, especially if they know what these guys are really looking for. The items at the museum came from the D’Campion collection. They excavated the Sophie C. years ago. That means the D’Campions are just as big a danger to them as the artifacts themselves.”

Kurt glanced out across the sea, his bright blue eyes squinting against the glare. A hard task lay ahead and all the joking in the world wouldn’t change that. “We’ll have to take them by surprise. What do we have weapons-wise, man-at-arms?”

“I have a Beretta nine-millimeter with a full clip, carrying eighteen shells,” Renata added.

“And I have a block of C-4,” Kurt said.

“That covers weapons, what about recon?”

Renata used her phone to download a satellite image of the area. “This is the location they’ve chosen.”

The image of a bay was easy to see. Teardrop-shaped and surrounded by limestone cliffs. In the cup of the bay was sandy beach. The clear water was turquoise in the afternoon sun.

“What’s this?” Kurt asked, tapping a section of the display.

Renata enlarged the image. “Buildings,” she said. They were constructed on the limestone cliffs, looked to be several stories high and were terraced with balconies. A narrow bridge cut across part of the bay.

“Abandoned hotel,” she said, bringing up some information about the site. “This is the main building. This bridge was designed to take guests from the hotel to the beach.”

“Is the bridge on the water, like those resorts in Bali?” Joe asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “Looks like it’s raised up for boats to pass underneath. According to some information I found, it’s supposed to look like the Azure Window, a famous natural formation down the coast from here.”

“That bridge will be a problem,” Kurt said. “So will the cliffs around the bay. They’re good places for snipers to perch. And, as we’ve already seen, they have one or two of those in their midst.”

“Maybe we can come in behind them,” Joe suggested. “Actually take the high ground this time.”

Renata panned out and scanned the edge of the image. The hotel was an outlier, a long way from the next populated area and connected only by a dirt road. There was no way to get to that road from the sea except up a rickety stairway that zigzagged beside the hotel.

“We could set these guys up as human shields,” Renata suggested coldly.

“I’d love to,” Kurt said. “But they seem to have no qualms about shooting their own. They might even thank us for it.”

“So what’s to stop them from hitting us with an RPG and blowing up the whole boat the second we enter the bay?”

“Nothing,” Kurt said, quickly realizing the truth. “Especially if they have no preference whether they take possession of the imaginary artifacts or destroy them. But I’m counting on them wanting to see what we have. And if they sink us or blow us up, they’ll never be sure if we had them on board. We just have to be ready to respond when they realize we’ve got nothing.”

“Any ideas?” Joe asked.

“You’re the mechanical genius,” Kurt said. “What can you do with all this?”

Joe scanned the deck. They had scuba tanks, hoses, a boat hook and some ropes. “Not a lot to work with,” he said. “But I’ll come up with something.”