Skeleton Coast, стр. 1

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SKELETON

COAST

CLIVE

CUSSLER

WITH JACK Du BRUL

“A NEW CLIVE CUSSLER NOVEL IS

LIKE A VISIT FROM YOUR BEST

FRIEND.”

—Tom Clancy

Clive Cussler’s explosive Oregon Files novels have been hailed as “honestly fabulous” (Kirkus Reviews) and “action-packed” (Publishers Weekly). Now, the author of the bestselling NUMA®and Dirk Pitt®series delivers an explosiveOregon Files novel featuring his unbeatable hero of the high seas—Juan Cabrillo…

1896:Four Englishmen flee for their lives across the merciless Kalahari Desert carrying a stolen fortune in raw diamonds, and hunted by a fierce African tribe. The thieves manage to reach the waiting HMSRove

—only to die with their pursuers in a storm that buries them all under tons of sand…

Today:Juan Cabrillo and the crew of the covert combat ship Oregon have barely escaped a mission on the Congo River when they intercept a mayday from a defenseless boat under fire off the African coast.

Cabrillo takes action, saving the craft…along with beautiful Sloane Macintyre. Sloane is looking for the now-submergedRove , and her search has attracted unwanted—and lethal—attention from unknown forces. But what surprises Cabrillo is her story about a crazy fisherman who claims to have been attacked on the open sea—by giant metal snakes—in the same area.

What begins as a snake hunt leads Cabrillo to the trial of a far more lethal quarry—a deranged enemy whose cadre of followers plans to unleash the devastating power of nature itself against all who oppose them…

PRAISE FOR CLIVE CUSSLER’SNEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING NOVELS OF THE

OREGON FILES

DARK WATCH

SACRED STONE

GOLDEN BUDDHA

“Ablaze with action.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Readers will burn up the pages following the blazing action and daring exploits of these men and women and their amazing machines.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Cussler will not be disappointed.”

—Library Journal

PRAISE FOR

CLIVE CUSSLER’S NUMA®SERIES

“MARVELOUS…simply terrific fun.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“YOU CAN’T GET MUCH MORE SATISFYING.”

—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A GREAT STORY.”

—Tulsa World

“WILDLY ENTERTAINING.”

—New York Daily News

PRAISE FOR

CLIVE CUSSLER’S DIRK PITT®SERIES

“[A] NONSTOP THRILLER…CUSSLER SPEEDS AND TWISTS through the complex plot and hairbreadth escapes [with] the intensity and suspense of a NASCAR race.”

—Publishers Weekly

“CLIVE CUSSLER…IS AT TOP FORM HERE.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“A DELIGHTFUL PAGE-TURNER that is almost impossible to put down.”

—The San Francisco Examiner

“THE FUNNEST DIRK PITT ADVENTURE SINCERAISE THETITANIC ! ”

—Rocky Mountain News

DIRK PITT®ADVENTURES BY CLIVE

CUSSLER

Trojan Odyssey

Valhalla Rising

Atlantis Found

Flood Tide

Shock Wave

Inca Gold

Sahara

Dragon

Treasure

Cyclops

Deep Six

Pacific Vortex

Night Probe

Vixen 03

Raise theTitanic !

Iceberg

The Mediterranean Caper

DIRK PITT®ADVENTURES BY CLIVE

CUSSLER AND DIRK CUSSLER

Black Wind

FICTION BY CLIVE CUSSLER WITH

PAUL KEMPRECOS

Polar Shift

Lost City

White Death

Fire Ice

Serpent

Blue Gold

FICTION BY CLIVE CUSSLER WITH

JACK DU BRUL

Skeleton Coast

Dark Watch

FICTION BY CLIVE CUSSLER AND

CRAIG DIRGO

Sacred Stone

Golden Buddha

NONFICTION BY CLIVE CUSSLER AND

CRAIG DIRGO

The Sea Hunters II

The Sea Hunters

1

KALAHARI DESERT

1896

HE never should have ordered them to leave the guns behind. The decision would cost them all their lives. But had there really been a choice? When the last remaining packhorse went lame they’d had to redistribute its load, and that meant leaving equipment behind. There was no debating the necessity of bringing the water flasks the animal had carried, or the satchels bursting with uncut stones. They’d had to abandon the tents, bedrolls, thirty pounds of food, and the Martini-Henry rifles each of the five men had carried, as well as all the ammunition. But even with these weight savings the surviving horses were severely overburdened, and with the sun beginning to rise once more to pound the desert no one expected their mounts would last the day.

H. A. Ryder knew better than to agree to lead the others across the Kalahari. He was an old Africa hand, having abandoned a failing farm in Sussex in the heady days of the Kimberley rush hoping to make himself a millionaire in the diamond fields. By the time he’d arrived in 1868 the whole of Colesberg Kopje, the hillock where the first diamonds had been discovered, was staked and the fields around it, too, for several miles. So Ryder turned to providing meat for the army of workers.

With a pair of wagons and hundreds of sacks of salt to cure the game, he and a couple of native guides ranged over thousands of square miles. It had been a solitary existence but one that Ryder grew to love, just as he came to love the land, with its haunting sunsets and dense forests, streams so clear the water looked like glass, and horizons so distant they seemed impossible to reach. He learned to speak the languages of various tribes, the Matabele, the Mashona, and the fierce, warlike Herero. He even understood some of the strange clicks and whistles that the Bushmen of the desert used to communicate.

He’d taken work as a safari guide so that rich Englishmen and Americans could adorn their mansion walls with trophies and he had spent time finding suitable routes for a telegraph company stringing lines across the southern third of the continent. He’d fought in a dozen skirmishes and killed ten times that many men. He knew and understood the African people and knew better still the savagery of the land itself. He knew he should have never accepted the job of guiding the others from Bechuanaland across the vast Kalahari wasteland in a mad dash to the sea. But there was always the lure of the big payoff, the siren song of instant wealth that had drawn him to Africa in the first place.

If they somehow made it, if the uncaring desert didn’t claim them, then H. A. Ryder was going to have that fortune of which he’d always dreamed.

“Think they’re still back there, H. A.?”

Ryder squinted into the rising sun so that his eyes nearly vanished into his weathered skin. He could see nothing on the distant horizon but curtains of shimmering heat that formed and dissolved like smoke.

Between them and the fiery sun marched dunes of pure white sand—shifting waves that rivaled towering hurricane swells. With the sun came the wind, which lashed at the tops of the dunes so that sand blew off their crests in stinging clouds.

“Aye, laddie,” he said without looking at the man standing next to him.

“How can you be sure?” H. A. turned to his companion, Jon Varley. “They’ll follow us to the gates of hell for what we did to them.”

The certainty in H. A.’s raspy voice made Varley blanch under his tan. Like Ryder, the four other men in their party were all English-born and had come to Africa to seek their fortunes, though none was as seasoned as their guide.

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