The dazzling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series from the grand master of adventure.
When Kurt Austin is injured attempting to rescue the passengers and crew from a sinking yacht, he wakes with fragmented and conflicted memories. Did he see an old friend and her children drown, or was the yacht abandoned when he came aboard? For reasons he cannot explain, Kurt doesn’t trust either version of his recollection.
Determined to know the truth, he begins to search for answers, and soon finds himself descending into a shadowy world of state-sponsored cybercrime, and uncovering a pattern of vanishing scientists, suspicious accidents, and a web of human trafficking. With the help of Joe Zavala, he takes on the sinister organization at the heart of this web, facing off with them in locations ranging from Monaco to North Korea to the rugged coasts of Madagascar. But where he will ultimately end up¾even he could not begin to guess.
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Clive Cussler is the author of dozens of New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Mayan Secrets, Mirage, and The Bootlegger. He lives in Arizona and Colorado.
Graham Brown is the author of Black Rain and Black Sun, and the coauthor, with Cussler, of Devil’s Gate, The Storm, and Zero Hour. A pilot and an attorney, he lives in Arizona.
Durban, South Africa, July 25, 1909
They were driving into a void, or so it seemed to Chief Inspector Robert Swan of the Durban Police Department.
On a moonless night, beneath a sky as dark as India ink, Swan rode shotgun in the cab of a motortruck as it rumbled down a dusty track in the countryside north of Durban. The headlights of the big Packard cast yellow beams of light that flickered and bounced and did little to brighten the path ahead. As he stared into the gloom, Swan could see no more than forty yards of the rutted path at any one time.
“How far to this farmhouse?” he asked, turning toward a thin, wiry man named Morris, who was wedged in next to the driver.
Morris checked his watch, leaned toward the driver, and checked the odometer of the truck. After some mental calculations, he glanced down at the map he held. “We should be there soon, Inspector. No more than ten minutes to go, I’d say.”
The chief inspector nodded and grabbed the doorsill as the bumpy ride continued. The Packard was known as a Three Ton, the latest from America and one of the first motor vehicles to be owned by the Durban Police Department. It had come off the boat with the customized cab and windshield. Enterprising workmen from the newly formed motor pool had built a frame to cover the flat bed and stretched canvas over it, though no one had done anything to make it more comfortable.
As the truck bounced and lurched over the rutted buggy trail, Swan decided he would rather be on horseback. But what the big rig lost in comfort it made up for in hauling power. In addition to Swan, Morris, and the driver, eight constables rode in back.
Swan leaned on the doorsill and turned to look behind him. Four sets of headlights followed. Three cars and another Packard. All told, Swan had nearly a quarter of the Durban police force riding with him.
“Are you sure we need all these men?” Morris asked.
Perhaps it was a bit much, Swan thought. Then again, the criminals they were after—a group known in the papers as the Klaar River Gang—had numbers of their own. Rumors put them between thirty and forty, depending on whom one believed.
Though they’d begun as common highwaymen, robbing others and extorting those who tried to make an honest living doing business out in the Veld, they’d grown more cunning and violent in the last six months. Farmhouses of those who refused to pay protection money were being burned to the ground. Miners and travelers were disappearing without a trace. The truth came to light when several of the gang were captured trying to rob a bank. They were brought back to Durban for interrogation only to be rescued in a brazen attack that left three policemen dead and four others wounded.
It was a line that Swan would not allow them to cross. “I’m not interested in a fair fight,” he explained. “Need I remind you what happened two days ago?”
Morris shook his head, and Swan rapped his hand on the partition that separated the cab from the back of the truck. A panel slid open and the face of a burly man appeared, all but filling the window.
“Are the men ready?” Swan asked.
“We’re ready, Inspector.”
“Good,” Swan said. “Remember, no prisoners tonight.”
The man nodded his understanding, but the words caused Morris to offer a sideways glance.
“You have a problem?” Swan barked.
“No, sir,” Morris said, looking back at his map. “It’s just that . . . we’re almost there. Just over this hill.”
Swan turned his attention forward once again and took a deep breath, readying himself. Almost immediately he caught the scent of smoke. It was distinct in flavor, like a bonfire.
The Packard crested the hill moments later, and the coal-black night was cleaved in two by a frenzied orange blaze on the field down below them. The farmhouse was burning from one side to the other, whirls of fire curling around it and reaching toward the heavens.
“Bloody hell,” Swan cursed.
The vehicles raced down the hill and spread out. The men poured forth and took up positions surrounding the house.
No one hit them. No one fired.
Morris led a squad closer. They approached from upwind and darted into the last section of the barn that wasn’t ablaze. Several horses were rescued, but the only gang members they found were already dead. Some of them half burned, others merely shot and left to die.
There was no hope of fighting the fire. The ancient wood and the oil-based paint crackled and burned like petrol. It put out such heat that Swan’s men were soon forced to back off or be broiled alive.
“What happened?” Swan demanded of his lieutenant.
“Looks like they had it out among themselves,” Morris said.
Swan considered that. Before the arrests in Durban, rumors had been swirling that suggested the gang was fraying at the seams. “How many dead?”
“We’ve found five. Some of the boys think they saw two more inside, but they couldn’t reach ’em.”
At that moment gunfire rang out.
Swan and Morris dove behind the Packard for cover. From sheltered positions, some of the officers began to shoot back, losing stray rounds into the inferno.
The shooting continued, oddly timed and staccato, though Swan saw no sign of bullets hitting nearby.
“Hold your fire!” he shouted. “But keep your heads down.”
“But they’re shooting at us,” one of the men shouted.
Swan shook his head even as the pop-pop of the gunfire continued. “It’s just ammunition going off in the blaze.”
The order was passed around, shouted from one man to the next. Despite his own directive, Swan stood up, peering over the hood of the truck.
By now the inferno had enveloped the entire farmhouse. The remaining beams looked like the bones of a giant resting on some Nordic funeral pyre. The flames curled around and through them, burning with a strange intensity, bright white and orange with occasional flashes of green and blue. It looked like hell itself had risen up and consumed the gang and their hideout from within.
As Swan watched, a massive explosion went off deep inside the structure, blowing the place into a fiery scrap. Swan was thrown back by the force of the blast, landing hard on his back, as chunks of debris rattled against the sides of the Packard.
Moments after the explosion, burning confetti began falling, as little scraps of paper fluttered down by the thousands, leaving trails of smoke and ash against the black sky. As the fragments kissed the ground, they began to set fires in the dry grass.
Seeing this, Swan’s men went into action without delay, tamping out the embers to prevent a brushfire from surrounding them.
Swan noticed several fragments landing nearby. He rolled over and stretched for one of them, patting it out with his hand. To his surprise, he saw numbers, letters, and the stern face of King George staring back at him.
“Tenners,” Morris said excitedly. “Ten-pound notes. Thousands of them.”
As the realization spread through the men, they redoubled their efforts, running around and gathering up the charred scraps with a giddy enthusiasm they rarely showed for collecting evidence. Some of the notes were bundled and not too badly burned. Others were like leaves in the fireplace, curled and blackened beyond recognition.
“Gives a whole new meaning to the term blowing the loot,” Morris said.
Swan chuckled, but he wasn’t really listening, his thoughts were elsewhere; studying the fire, counting the bodies, working the case as an inspector’s mind should.
Something was not right, not right at all.
At first, he put it down to the anticlimactic nature of the evening. The gang he’d come to make war on had done the job for him. That he could buy. He’d seen it before. Criminals often fought over the spoils of their crimes, especially when they were loosely affiliated and all but leaderless, as this gang was rumored to be.
No, Swan thought, this was suspicious on a deeper level.
Morris seemed to notice. “What’s wrong?”
“It makes no sense,” Swan replied.
“What part of it?”
“The whole thing,” Swan said. “The risky daylight bank job. The raid to get their men out. The gunfight in the street.”
Morris stared at him blankly. “I don’t follow you.”
“Look around,” Swan suggested. “Judging by the storm of burnt cash raining down on us, these thugs were sitting on a small fortune.”
“Yes,” Morris agreed. “So what?”
“So why rob a heavily defended bank in broad daylight if you’re already loaded to the gills with cash? Why risk shooting up Durban to get your mates out only to gun them down back here?”
Morris stared at Swan for a long moment before nodding his agreement. “I have no idea,” he said. “But you’re right. It makes no sense at all.”
The fire continued to burn well into the morning hours, only dying when the farmhouse was consumed. The operation ended without casualties among the police, and the Klaar River Gang was never heard from again.
Most considered it a stroke of good fortune, but Swan was never convinced. He and Morris would discuss the events of that evening for years, well into their retirement. Despite many theories and guesses as to what really went on, it was a question they would never be able to answer.
170 miles West-Southwest of Durban, July 27, 1909
The SS Waratah plowed through the waves on a voyage from Durban to Cape Town, rolling noticeably with the growing swells. Dark smoke from coal-fired boilers spilled from her single funnel and was driven in the opposite direction by a contrary wind.
Sitting alone in the main lounge of the five-hundred-foot steamship, fifty-one-year-old Gavin Brèvard felt the vessel roll ponderously to starboard. He watched the cup and saucer in front of him slide toward the edge of the table, slowly at first, and then picking up speed as the angle of the ship’s roll increased. At the last second, he grabbed for the cup, preventing it from sliding off the edge and clattering to the floor.
The Waratah remained at a sharp pitch, taking a full two minutes to right herself, and Brèvard began to worry about the vessel he’d booked passage on.
In a prior life, he’d spent ten years at sea aboard various steamers. On those ships the recoil was quicker, the keel more adept at righting itself. This ship felt top-heavy to him. It made him wonder if something was wrong.
“More tea, sir?”
Deep in thought, Brèvard barely noticed the waiter in the uniform of the Blue Anchor Line.
He held out the cup he’d saved from destruction. “Merci.”
The waiter topped it off and moved on. As he left, a new figure came into the room, a broad-shouldered man of perhaps thirty, with reddish hair and a ruddy face. He made a direct line for Brèvard, taking a seat in the chair opposite.
“Johannes,” Brèvard said in greeting. “Glad to see you’re not trapped in your cabin like the others.”
Johannes looked a little green, but he seemed to be holding up. “Why have you called me here?”
Brèvard took a sip of the tea. “I’ve been thinking. And I’ve decided something important.”
“And what might that be?”
“We’re far from safe.”
Johannes sighed and looked away. Brèvard understood. Johannes thought him to be a worrier. A fear-laden man. But Brèvard was just trying to be cautious. He’d spent years with people chasing him, years living under the threat of imprisonment or death. He had to think five steps ahead just to remain alive. It had tuned his mind to a hyperattentive state.
“Of course we’re safe,” Johannes replied. “We’ve assumed new identities. We left no trail. The others are all dead, and the barn has been burned to the ground. Only our family continues on.”
Brèvard took another sip of tea. “What if we’ve missed something?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Johannes insisted. “We’re beyond the reach of the authorities here. This ship has no radio. We might as well be on an island somewhere.”
That was true. As long as the ship was at sea, they could rest and relax. But the journey would end soon enough.
“We’re only safe until we dock in Cape Town,” Brèvard pointed out. “If we haven’t covered our trail as perfectly as we think, we may arrive to a greeting of angry policemen or His Majesty’s troops.”
Johannes did not reply right away. He was thinking, soaking the information in. “What do you suggest?” he asked finally.
“We have to make this journey last forever.”
“And how do we do that?”
Brèvard was speaking metaphorically. He knew he had to be more concrete for Johannes. “How many guns do we have?”
“Four pistols and three rifles.”
“What about the explosives?”
“Two of the cases are still full,” Johannes said with a scowl. “Though I’m not sure it was wise to bring them aboard.”
“They’ll be fine,” Brèvard insisted. “Wake the others, I have a plan. It’s time we took destiny into our own hands.”
CAPTAIN JOSHUA ILBERY stood on the Waratah’s bridge despite it being time for the third watch to take over. The weather concerned him. The wind was gusting to fifty knots, and it was blowing opposite to the tide and the current. This odd combination was building the waves into sharp pyramids, unusually high and steep, like piles of sand pushed together from both directions.
“Steady on, now,” Ilbery said to the helmsman. “Adjust as needed, we don’t want to be broadsided.”
“Aye,” the helmsman said.
Ilbery lifted the binoculars. The light was fading as evening came on, and he hoped the wind would subside in the night.
Scanning the whitecaps ahead of him, Ilbery heard the bridge door open. To his surprise, a shot rang out. He dropped the binoculars and spun to see the helmsman slumping to the deck, clutching his stomach. Beyond him stood a group of passengers with weapons, one of whom walked over and took the helm.
Before Ilbery could utter a word or grab for a weapon, a ruddy-faced passenger slammed the butt of an Enfield rifle into his gut. He doubled over and fell back, landing against the bulkhead.
The man who’d attacked him aimed the barrel of the Enfield at his heart. Ilbery noticed it was held by rough hands, more fitting on a farmer or rancher than a first-class passenger. He looked into the man’s eyes and saw no mercy. He couldn’t be sure of course, but Ilbery had little doubt the man he was facing had shot and killed before.
“What is the meaning of this?” Ilbery growled.
One of the group stepped toward him. He was older than the others, with graying hair at the temples. He wore a finer suit and carried himself with the loose elegance of a leader. Ilbery recognized him as one of a group who’d come on board in Durban. Brèvard, was the name. Gavin Brèvard.
“I demand an explanation,” Ilbery said.
Brèvard smirked at him. “I should have thought it quite obvious. We’re commandeering this ship. You’re going to set a new course away from the coast and then back to the east. We’re not going to Cape Town.”
“You can’t be serious,” Ilbery said. “We’re in the middle of a bad stretch. The ship is barely responding as it is. To make a turn now would—”
Gavin aimed the pistol at a spot halfway between the captain’s...
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Descrizione libro Penguin Books Ltd (UK), 2014. Taschenbuch. Condizione libro: Neu. Neu Neuware, Importqualität, auf Lager, Versand per Büchersendung - In this, the twelfth NUMA Files Adventure, Austin and his team must undertake their most dangerous mission yet, taking on enemies more deadly than those they have ever faced before. 440 pp. Englisch. Codice libro della libreria INF1000360662