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Ghost Ship : NUMA Files : Book 12 - Clive Cussler

Ghost Ship

NUMA Files : Book 12


Published: 28th May 2014
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RRP $29.99

When Kurt Austin is injured while rescuing the passengers and crew of a sinking yacht, he wakes up with conflicting memories of what he saw. Did he witness an old friend and her children drown, or was the yacht abandoned when he came aboard?

For reasons he cannot explain - yet - Kurt doesn't trust either version of his recollection.

Determined to seek out the truth, his hunt for answers soon descends him into a shadowy world of state-sponsored cybercrime, where he uncovers a pattern of suspicious accidents, vanishing scientists and a web of human trafficking.

Now, he must take on the sinister organization behind this conspiracy, facing off against them from Morocco to North Korea to the rugged coasts of Madagascar.

But where this highly dangerous quest will ultimately take him, even he could not begin to guess . . .

About the Authors

Graham Brown is the author of Black Rain and Black Sun. A pilot and an attorney, he lives in Arizona.

Clive Cussler is the author of over twenty-five internationally bestselling books, including the Dirk Pitt adventure series, the NUMA FILES novels and the Oregon Files Adventures.

He grew up in Alhambra, California. He later attended Pasadena City College for two years, but then enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War where he served as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer in the Military Air Transport Service. Upon his discharge, he became a copywriter and later creative director for two leading ad agencies. At that time, he wrote and produced radio and television commercials that won numerous international awards, one at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Cussler began writing in 1965 and published his first novel featuring Dirk Pitt in 1973. His first non-fiction work, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. Because of this work the Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York considered The Sea Hunters in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded Cussler a Doctor of Letters degree in May of 1997. It was the first time since the College was founded in 1874 that such a degree was bestowed.

Cussler is the founder the National Underwater & Marine Agency, (NUMA), a non-profit organisation that dedicates itself to American maritime and naval history. In addition to being Chairman of NUMA, Cussler is a fellow in both the Explorers Club of New York and the Royal Geographic Society in London.

A noted collector of classic automobiles, Cussler owns 85 of the finest examples of custom coachwork and 50's convertibles to be found anywhere. They are garaged near Golden, Colorado. Today, Cussler divides his time between the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona.

'Cussler is hard to beat.' Daily Mail

'The adventure king.' Sunday Express

Prologue — The Vanishing

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, loosing 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.

ISBN: 9780718178772
ISBN-10: 0718178777
Series: NUMA Files
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 416
Published: 28th May 2014
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4
Weight (kg): 23.4