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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:15

Up on the bridge, the D’Campions were shoved forward. They fell thirty feet, hitting the bay with a resounding crash and disappearing beneath the surface.

“The hostages are in the water!” Kurt shouted, ducking as another spread of shells hit the boat. “I’m still pinned down. I can’t get over the side. Joe, can you get to them?”

“I’m on it,” Joe shouted.

Joe was dealing with sporadic gunfire from someone tucked in behind the vehicles and stray shots from the shack where Hassan had hidden. He shut the valve on one of the air tanks, cut through a length of the attached line with his knife and then pulled the tank free.

He moved to the far side of the cabin, used the tank to smash out the window and then tossed it through.

“Zavala signing off!” he called out.

He ran forward and dove through the shattered window with perfect form, knifing into the water without a shot coming his way.

Once submerged, Joe kicked hard, swimming downward and reaching the tank.

He turned the valve, let a flow of bubbles out and put the end of the hose up into his mouth. Not the best way to get air, but it would work.

ttom, lit up by shafts of golden sunlight.

With the tank cradled under one arm, Joe kicked hard and used his free hand as well. For a man used to swimming with fins, the progress was agonizingly slow. He reached the sand at a depth of fifteen feet and used his feet to push off. He was almost under the bridge when the first bullets began stabbing down through the water toward him, leaving long trails of bubbles in their wake.

From his position on the flybridge, Kurt realized the danger. The water in the bay was clear as glass and almost as flat. The gunman on the bridge could see Joe easily. By the time Joe reached the D’Campions, he would be directly under the proverbial gun.

Trapped, but unwilling to see the D’Campions drown or his friend shot full of lead, Kurt did the only thing that seemed rational to him: he went all in.

He grabbed the block of C-4, set the timer to five seconds and pressed ENTER. With a flick of his arm, he tossed it toward the shack. The explosive landed close and the blast rocked the building, knocking half the roof off, and collapsing it one wall at a time like a house of cards.

Hassan wasn’t inside. He was already out and running toward parked cars.

Twenty feet down, Joe was swimming inverted, holding the tank between himself and the strawlike trails of bubbles that marked each bullet that came his way.

He pulled the air hose from his mouth, releasing an eruption of bubbles that he hoped would hide his true position. The bullets kept coming, hitting all around him like a meteor shower. One grazed his arm, slicing a fine line in his skin that instantly began to bleed. Another hit the base of the air tank but didn’t penetrate.

He made it into the shadow beside the D’Campions and allowed each of them to breathe from the stream of air.

On the bridge, the shooter was getting frustrated. Hassan and the others were driving away. “Finish them before you leave,” Hassan had ordered.

The shooter pulled back, replaced the empty magazine and switched to full auto. Aiming back down through a hole in the bridge, he gripped the barrel. The bubbles were distracting, but each time his prey took a breath from the air hose, the bubbles cleared just enough. He zeroed in and readied himself to pull the trigger.

A red-and-gray shape flashed into the space and slammed into the stanchion that supported the bridge. The old structure shook and groaned.

For a second, the gunman thought the bridge would topple, but it steadied and the dust cleared. The gunman looked back down through his firing slot.

The grinning face of the silver-haired American was looking up at him, holding one of the APS rifles.

“Don’t!” the American said.

The gunman tried anyway, snapping the barrel of the rifle downward as quickly as he could.