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

As the surgeon took the agent back into the dressing area, Gamay’s phone rang. She looked at the name on the screen. “It’s Kurt. Probably wondering why we missed work the past two days.”

Paul took a quick look around and motioned to the balcony. “Let’s get some air.”

They stepped outside and Gamay hit the answer button on the phone.

“How was your vacation?” Kurt asked.

The night air was warm and soft, tinged with the scent of the Mediterranean. But the sound of helicopters circling and the rattle of distant gunfire could be heard. “Things haven’t exactly been relaxing,” Gamay replied.

“That’s too bad,” Kurt said. “How about a second honeymoon in the French countryside? All expenses paid by NUMA.”

“Sounds lovely,” Gamay said. “Though I’m sure there’s a catch.”

“There always is,” Kurt said.

Paul was listening in. “Tell him we need to stay here.”

Gamay nodded. “Any chance we can get a rain check? We’re onto something out here. Something that needs further investigation.”

“A major drought in North Africa.”

Kurt was silent for a moment, but then said, “Isn’t that kind of standard for the Sahara?”

“That’s not what I mean,” Gamay said, realizing she hadn’t been clear. “Not a drought as in lack of rainfall from above but drought as in drying up from below. Spring-fed lakes turning into mudflats. Pumps and deep wells that have been running for decades suddenly drawing only a trickle of water.”

“That does sound unusual,” Kurt said.

“It’s causing riots and who knows what else.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kurt said, “but someone else will have to address it. I need your help in France. We’ve chartered a flight out of Benghazi to Rennes. I need you both on it as soon as possible.”

“Care to tell us why?”

“You’ll find out when you get to the plane,” Kurt said.

She covered the phone. “Something big must be going on, Kurt’s not normally this tight-lipped.”

Paul glanced back to where the Libyan agent had been interrogating them. “Let’s just hope we’re allowed to leave town.”

Gamay wondered about that too. “We may have some trouble with the authorities. It’s a long story, but we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“Keep me posted,” Kurt said. “If you can’t get away, we’re going to need someone else—and fast.”

Kurt hung up and Gamay put the phone back in her pocket. “It never rains but it pours,” she said.

“Not here,” Paul replied. “This is a desert.”

“So I’ve heard,” she said with a sad smile.

By now, the Libyan agent had come back from the operating room. He made his way over to them and stepped out onto the balcony.

“My apologies,” he said. “Not only did Reza confirm your story, he insists you saved his life and were very helpful at the pumping station.”

“Glad to hear we’ve been cleared,” Paul said.

A flash lit up a distant part of the city. The boom arrived seconds later. Some type of explosion had gone off.