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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:17

Kurt guessed it was Hassan, the man he’d negotiated with. “All right, I’ll accompany you.”

“Guess that means I’m going to France,” Joe said. “That’s fine. I’ve always wanted to tour the countryside. Sample the wine and cheese.”

“Sorry,” Kurt said. “Summer in Paris will have to wait. You’re coming with us.”

“Then who do we send?”

“Paul and Gamay,” Kurt replied. “Their vacation ended a few days ago. It’s time they got back to work.”

Riots had broken out in the city. With the lack of water, the threat of a civil war was looming. The emergency room was overflowing when they arrived. Some patients had been stabbed, others beaten and still others had been shot.

Paul and Gamay found an unoccupied corner to wait in and were soon joined by a member of the Libyan security service. He spent an hour interrogating them about the events at the pumping plant. They explained what they were doing there and how they’d been working with Reza in hopes of determining what was happening to the aquifer.

The agent seemed skeptical. He mostly nodded and took notes even as the other workers from the pumping station confirmed the report. He paid particular attention to their description of the attack and escape.

Tense silence followed, broken only by shouting when another group of injured men was brought in off the street. The government agent eyed them with a sense of foreboding.

“When did all this start?” Gamay asked, surprised at how full the hospital was.

“The protests began as soon as the government cut off water to some sections of the city. They turned violent this afternoon. Severe rationing has begun, but it won’t be enough. People are desperate. And someone is stirring them up.”

“Someone?” Paul asked.

“Many are interfering in Libya these days,” the agent said. “It’s been well documented that Egyptian spies and agents have spilled into our towns. Why? We don’t know. But it’s growing.”

“So that’s why you don’t trust us?” Gamay said. “You think we did something to Reza?”

“There was an attempt on his life last month,” the agent said. “And for good reason: he’s the key to getting the water flowing once again. He knows more about the system and the geology than anyone else. Without him, we may be lost.”

“All we’ve done is try to help,” Gamay said.

“We shall see,” the agent replied, giving nothing away.

As he finished speaking, a surgeon finally came out of the operating room and looked their way. He walked tiredly toward them, pulling a mask away from his face. He had dark circles under his eyes and the haggard look of a man who’d worked too long already with no end in sight.

“Please give us good news,” Gamay said.

“Reza is alive and recovering,” the surgeon said. “A bullet went through his thigh and a bit of shrapnel nicked his liver, but the main shard of metal missed anything vital. Fortunately—or, perhaps, unfortunately—our surgical teams have become experts at dealing with this type of injury. The civil war has seen to that.”

“When can we talk with him?” Gamay asked.

“He’s only just woken up. You should wait at least half an hour.”

“I will see him now,” the agent said, standing and holding up his ID badge.

“It’s not a good time,” the doctor said.

“Then take me to him.”

The surgeon exhaled in mild frustration. “Fine,” he said. “Come with me. We need to put you in a gown.”