Ghost Ship

Hardcover | May 27, 2014

byClive Cussler, Graham Brown

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The dazzling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series from Clive Cussler, 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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From the Publisher

The dazzling new novel in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series from Clive Cussler, 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 does...

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.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:448 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1.4 inPublished:May 27, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399167315

ISBN - 13:9780399167317

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PROLOGUE—THE VANISHINGDurban, South Africa, July 25, 1909They were driving into a void, or so it seemed to Chief InspectorRobert 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 rumbleddown a dusty track in the countryside north of Durban. Theheadlights of the big Packard cast yellow beams of light thatflickered and bounced and did little to brighten the path ahead.As he stared into the gloom, Swan could see no more than fortyyards of the rutted path at any one time.“How far to this farmhouse?” he asked, turning toward athin, wiry man named Morris, who was wedged in next to thedriver.Morris checked his watch, leaned toward the driver, andchecked the odometer of the truck. After some mental calculations,he glanced down at the map he held. “We should be theresoon, Inspector. No more than ten minutes to go, I’d say.”The chief inspector nodded and grabbed the doorsill as thebumpy ride continued. The Packard was known as a ThreeTon, the latest from America and one of the first motor vehiclesto be owned by the Durban Police Department. It hadcome off the boat with the customized cab and windshield.Enterprising workmen from the newly formed motor pool hadbuilt 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 buggytrail, Swan decided he would rather be on horseback. But whatthe big rig lost in comfort it made up for in hauling power. Inaddition to Swan, Morris, and the driver, eight constables rodein 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 policeforce riding with him.“Are you sure we need all these men?” Morris asked.Perhaps it was a bit much, Swan thought. Then again, thecriminals they were after—a group known in the papers as theKlaar River Gang—had numbers of their own. Rumors putthem between thirty and forty, depending on whom one believed.Though they’d begun as common highwaymen, robbingothers and extorting those who tried to make an honest livingdoing business out in the Veld, they’d grown more cunning andviolent in the last six months. Farmhouses of those who refusedto pay protection money were being burned to the ground.Miners and travelers were disappearing without a trace. Thetruth came to light when several of the gang were captured tryingto rob a bank. They were brought back to Durban for interrogationonly to be rescued in a brazen attack that left threepolicemen dead and four others wounded.It was a line that Swan would not allow them to cross. “I’mnot interested in a fair fight,” he explained. “Need I remind youwhat happened two days ago?”Morris shook his head, and Swan rapped his hand on thepartition that separated the cab from the back of the truck. Apanel slid open and the face of a burly man appeared, all butfilling 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 causedMorris to offer a sideways glance.“You have a problem?” Swan barked.“No, sir,” Morris said, looking back at his map. “It’s justthat . . . we’re almost there. Just over this hill.”Swan turned his attention forward once again and took adeep breath, readying himself. Almost immediately he caughtthe 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 onthe field down below them. The farmhouse was burning fromone side to the other, whirls of fire curling around it and reachingtoward the heavens.“Bloody hell,” Swan cursed.The vehicles raced down the hill and spread out. The menpoured forth and took up positions surrounding the house.No one hit them. No one fired.Morris led a squad closer. They approached from upwindand darted into the last section of the barn that wasn’t ablaze.Several horses were rescued, but the only gang members theyfound were already dead. Some of them half burned, othersmerely shot and left to die.There was no hope of fighting the fire. The ancient woodand the oil-based paint crackled and burned like petrol. It putout such heat that Swan’s men were soon forced to back off orbe 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, rumorshad been swirling that suggested the gang was fraying at theseams. “How many dead?”“We’ve found five. Some of the boys think they saw twomore inside, but they couldn’t reach ’em.”At that moment gunfire rang out.Swan and Morris dove behind the Packard for cover. Fromsheltered positions, some of the officers began to shoot back,loosing stray rounds into the inferno.The shooting continued, oddly timed and staccato, thoughSwan 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 gunfirecontinued. “It’s just ammunition going off in the blaze.”The order was passed around, shouted from one man to thenext. Despite his own directive, Swan stood up, peering overthe hood of the truck.By now the inferno had enveloped the entire farmhouse.The remaining beams looked like the bones of a giant restingon some Nordic funeral pyre. The flames curled around andthrough them, burning with a strange intensity, bright whiteand orange with occasional flashes of green and blue. It lookedlike hell itself had risen up and consumed the gang and theirhideout from within.As Swan watched, a massive explosion went off deep insidethe structure, blowing the place into a fiery scrap. Swan wasthrown 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 fragmentskissed 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 surroundingthem.Swan noticed several fragments landing nearby. He rolledover and stretched for one of them, patting it out with his hand.To his surprise, he saw numbers, letters, and the stern face ofKing George staring back at him.“Tenners,” Morris said excitedly. “Ten-pound notes. Thousandsof them.”As the realization spread through the men, they redoubledtheir efforts, running around and gathering up the charredscraps with a giddy enthusiasm they rarely showed for collectingevidence. Some of the notes were bundled and not toobadly burned. Others were like leaves in the fireplace, curledand 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 thoughtswere elsewhere; studying the fire, counting the bodies, workingthe 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 forhim. That he could buy. He’d seen it before. Criminals oftenfought over the spoils of their crimes, especially when they wereloosely affiliated and all but leaderless, as this gang was rumoredto 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 ofburnt cash raining down on us, these thugs were sitting on asmall fortune.”“Yes,” Morris agreed. “So what?”“So why rob a heavily defended bank in broad daylight ifyou’re already loaded to the gills with cash? Why risk shootingup Durban to get your mates out only to gun them down backhere?”Morris stared at Swan for a long moment before nodding hisagreement. “I have no idea,” he said. “But you’re right. It makesno sense at all.”The fire continued to burn well into the morning hours,only dying when the farmhouse was consumed. The operationended without casualties among the police, and the Klaar RiverGang was never heard from again.Most considered it a stroke of good fortune, but Swan wasnever convinced. He and Morris would discuss the events ofthat evening for years, well into their retirement. Despite manytheories and guesses as to what really went on, it was a questionthey would never be able to answer.CHAPTER 1170 miles West-Southwest of Durban, July 27, 1909The SS Waratah plowed through the waves on a voyage fromDurban to Cape Town, rolling noticeably with the growingswells. Dark smoke from coal-fired boilers spilled from her singlefunnel and was driven in the opposite direction by a contrarywind.Sitting alone in the main lounge of the five-hundred-footsteamship, fifty-one-year-old Gavin Brèvard felt the vessel rollponderously to starboard. He watched the cup and saucer infront 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, preventingit from sliding off the edge and clattering to the floor.The Waratah remained at a sharp pitch, taking a full twominutes to right herself, and Brèvard began to worry about thevessel he’d booked passage on.In a prior life, he’d spent ten years at sea aboard varioussteamers. On those ships the recoil was quicker, the keel moreadept at righting itself. This ship felt top-heavy to him. It madehim wonder if something was wrong.“More tea, sir?”Deep in thought, Brèvard barely noticed the waiter in theuniform 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 newfigure came into the room, a broad-shouldered man of perhapsthirty, with reddish hair and a ruddy face. He made a direct linefor Brèvard, taking a seat in the chair opposite.“Johannes,” Brèvard said in greeting. “Glad to see you’re nottrapped in your cabin like the others.”Johannes looked a little green, but he seemed to be holdingup. “Why have you called me here?”Brèvard took a sip of the tea. “I’ve been thinking. And I’vedecided something important.”“And what might that be?”“We’re far from safe.”Johannes sighed and looked away. Brèvard understood. Johannesthought him to be a worrier. A fear-laden man. ButBrèvard was just trying to be cautious. He’d spent years withpeople chasing him, years living under the threat of imprisonmentor death. He had to think five steps ahead just to remainalive. It had tuned his mind to a hyperattentive state.“Of course we’re safe,” Johannes replied. “We’ve assumednew identities. We left no trail. The others are all dead, and thebarn has been burned to the ground. Only our family continueson.”Brèvard took another sip of tea. “What if we’ve missedsomething?”“It doesn’t matter,” Johannes insisted. “We’re beyond thereach of the authorities here. This ship has no radio. We mightas well be on an island somewhere.”That was true. As long as the ship was at sea, they could restand relax. But the journey would end soon enough.“We’re only safe until we dock in Cape Town,” Brèvardpointed out. “If we haven’t covered our trail as perfectly as wethink, we may arrive to a greeting of angry policemen or HisMajesty’s troops.”Johannes did not reply right away. He was thinking, soakingthe 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 bemore 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 havea plan. It’s time we took destiny into our own hands.”Captain Joshua Ilbery stood on the Waratah’s bridge despiteit being time for the third watch to take over. The weatherconcerned him. The wind was gusting to fifty knots, and itwas blowing opposite to the tide and the current. This oddcombination was building the waves into sharp pyramids, unusuallyhigh and steep, like piles of sand pushed together fromboth directions.“Steady on, now,” Ilbery said to the helmsman. “Adjust asneeded, we don’t want to be broadsided.”“Aye,” the helmsman said.Ilbery lifted the binoculars. The light was fading as eveningcame on, and he hoped the wind would subside in thenight.Scanning the whitecaps ahead of him, Ilbery heard thebridge door open. To his surprise, a shot rang out. He droppedthe binoculars and spun to see the helmsman slumping to thedeck, clutching his stomach. Beyond him stood a group ofpassengers with weapons, one of whom walked over and tookthe helm.Before Ilbery could utter a word or grab for a weapon, aruddy-faced passenger slammed the butt of an Enfield rifle intohis gut. He doubled over and fell back, landing against thebulkhead.The man who’d attacked him aimed the barrel of the Enfieldat his heart. Ilbery noticed it was held by rough hands, more fittingon a farmer or rancher than a first-class passenger. Helooked into the man’s eyes and saw no mercy. He couldn’t besure of course, but Ilbery had little doubt the man he was facinghad shot and killed before.“What is the meaning of this?” Ilbery growled.One of the group stepped toward him. He was older thanthe others, with graying hair at the temples. He wore a finer suitand carried himself with the loose elegance of a leader. Ilberyrecognized him as one of a group who’d come on board inDurban. Brèvard, was the name. Gavin Brèvard.“I demand an explanation,” Ilbery said.Brèvard smirked at him. “I should have thought it quiteobvious. We’re commandeering this ship. You’re going to set anew 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 ofa bad stretch. The ship is barely responding as it is. To make aturn now would—”Gavin aimed the pistol at a spot halfway between the captain’seyes. “I’ve worked on steamers before, Captain. Enoughto know that this ship is top-heavy and performing poorly. Butshe’s not going to go over, so stop lying to me.”“This ship will surely go to the bottom,” Ilbery said.“Give the order,” Brèvard demanded, “or I’ll blow a hole inyour skull and pilot this ship myself.”Ilbery’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Perhaps you can navigate,but what about the rest of the duties? Do you and this lot intendto man the ship yourselves?”Brèvard smiled wryly. He’d known from the start that thiswas his weakness, the chink in his armor. He had eight otherswith him, three of them children. Even if they’d been adults,nine people couldn’t even keep the fires stoked for long, letalone guard the passengers and crew, and pilot the ship at thesame time.But Brèvard was used to playing the angles. His whole lifewas a study in getting others to do as he wished, either againsttheir wills or without them knowing they were doing his bidding.He’d known he needed leverage, and the explosives in thetwo cases enabled him to turn the odds in his favor.“Bring in the prisoner,” he said.Ilbery watched as the bridge door was opened and an unkemptteenager appeared. This one brought in a man coveredin coal dust. Blood flowed from a broken nose and a gashacross his forehead.“Chief?”“I’m sorry, Cap’n,” the chief said. “They tricked us. Theyused children to distract us. And then they overpowered us.Three of the lads are shot. But it’s so loud down there no oneheard until it was too late.”“What have they done?” the captain asked, his eyes growingwide.“Dynamite,” the chief said. “A dozen sticks attached to boilersthree and four.”Ilbery turned to Brèvard. “Are you insane? You can’t put explosivesin an environment like that. The heat, the embers. Onespark and—”“And we’ll all be blown to kingdom come,” Brèvard said,finishing the thought for him. “Yes, I’m well aware of the consequences.The thing is, a rope waits for me onshore, the kindthat stretches one’s neck. If I’m going to die, I’d rather it bequick and glorious than slow and painful. So don’t test me.I have three of my people down there with rifles like these tomake sure no one removes those explosives, at least not untilI leave this ship at a port of my choosing. Now, do as I say andturn this vessel away from the coast.”“And then what?” Ilbery asked.“When we’ve reached our destination, we’ll take a few ofyour boats, a heap of supplies, and everyone’s cash and jewelry,and we’ll leave your ship and disappear. You and your crew willbe free to sail back to Cape Town with a fantastic story to tellthe world.”Using the bulkhead behind him for support, Captain Ilberyforced himself up and stood. He stared at Brèvard with contempt.The man had him and both knew it.“Chief,” he said without taking his eyes off the hijacker.“Take the helm and turn us about.”The chief staggered to the wheel and pushed the hijackeraside and did as ordered. The rudder answered the helm, andthe SS Waratah began to turn.“Good decision,” Brèvard said.Ilbery wondered about that, but knew he had no choice.For his part, Brèvard was pleased. He sat down in a chair,laid the rifle across his lap, and studied the captain closely. Havingspent his lifetime misleading others, from policemen topowder-wigged judges, Brèvard had learned that some menwere easier to read than others. The honest ones were moreobvious than the rest.As Brèvard stared at this captain, he pegged him as one ofthose. A man with pride and smarts and a great sense of dutyfor his passengers and crew. That sense of duty compelled himto comply with Brèvard’s demands in order to protect the livesof those on board. But it also made him dangerous.Even as he acquiesced, Ilbery stood tall and ramrod straight.Though he clutched his stomach from the blow he’d taken, hekept a fire burning in his eyes that beaten men didn’t have. Allof which suggested the captain was not ready to relinquish hisship just yet. A countermove would come, sooner rather thanlater.Brèvard didn’t blame the captain. Quite frankly, he respectedhim. All the same, he made a mental note to be ready.SS Harlow—10 miles ahead of the WaratahLike the captain of the Waratah, the captain of the Harlow wason the bridge. Thirty-foot waves and fifty-knot winds requiredit. He and his crew were making constant corrections, workinghard to keep the Harlow from going off course. They’d evenpumped in some extra water as ballast to help reduce the roll.As the first officer reentered the bridge following an inspectionrun, the captain looked his way. “How are we faring, numberone?”“Shipshape from stem to stern, sir.”“Excellent,” the captain said. He stepped to the bridge wingand glanced out behind them. The lights of another vesselcould be seen on the horizon. She was several miles astern, andmaking a great deal of smoke.“What do you make of her?” the captain asked. “She’schanged course, out away from the coast.”“Could be a turn to get more clearance from the shoals,” thefirst officer said. “Or perhaps the wind and current are forcingher off. Any idea who it is?”“Not sure,” the captain said. “She might be the Waratah.”Moments later, a pair of flashes only seconds apart lit outfrom the vessel’s approximate position. They were brightwhite and then orange, but at this range there was no sound,like watching distant fireworks. When they faded, the horizonwas dark.Both the captain and first officer blinked and stared intothat darkness.“What was that?” the first officer asked. “An explosion?”The captain wasn’t sure. He grabbed for the binoculars andtook a moment to train them on the spot. There was no sign offire, but a cold chill gripped his spine as he realized the lights ofthe mystery ship had vanished as well.“Could have been flares from a brushfire on the shore behindthem,” the first officer suggested. “Or heat lightning.”The captain didn’t respond and continued to stare throughthe binoculars, sweeping the field of view. He hoped the firstofficer was right, but if the flashes of light had come from theshore or the sky, then what had happened to the ship’s lightsvisible only moments before?Upon docking, both men would learn that the Waratah wasoverdue and missing. She’d never made port in Cape Town, norhad she returned to Durban or made landfall anywhere else.In quick succession both the Royal Navy and the Blue AnchorLine would dispatch ships in search of the Waratah, butthey would return empty-handed. No lifeboats were found. Nowreckage. No debris. No bodies floating in the water.Over the years, nautical groups, government organizations,and treasure seekers would search for the wreck of the missingship. They would use sonar, magnetometers, and satellite imaging.They would dispatch divers and submarines and ROVs toscour various wrecks along the coast. But it was all in vain.More than a century after her disappearance, not a single traceof the Waratah had ever been found.CHAPTER 2Maputo Bay, Mozambique, September 1987The sun was falling toward the horizon as an aging fifty-foottrawler sailed into the bay from the open waters of the MozambiqueChannel. For Cuoto Zumbana, it had been a good day.The hold of his boat was filled with fresh fish, no nets hadbeen torn or lost, and the old motor had survived yet anotherjourney—though it continued to belch gray smoke.Satisfied with life, Zumbana closed his eyes and turnedtoward the sun, letting it bathe the weathered folds of his face.There was little he enjoyed more than that glorious feeling.Such peace it brought him that the excited shouts of his crewdid not break him from it at first.“Mashua,” one shouted.Zumbana opened his eyes, squinting in the glare as the sunlightblazed off the sea like liquid fire. Blocking the light withhis hand, he saw what the men were pointing at, a small woodendinghy bobbing in the chop of the late afternoon. It seemedto be adrift, and there didn’t appear to be anyone on board.“Take us to it,” he ordered. To find a small boat he could sellwould only make the day better. He would even share some ofthe money with the crew.The trawler changed course, and the old engine chugged alittle harder. Soon, they were closing the gap.Zumbana’s face wrinkled. The small boat was badly weatheredand looked hastily patched. Even from fifty feet away hecould see that much of it was rotted.“Someone must have dumped it just to be rid of it,” one ofhis crewmen said.“There might be something of value on board,” Zumbanasaid. “Take us alongside.”The helmsman did as ordered, and the trawler eased to astop beside the dilapidated craft. As they bumped it, anothercrewman hopped aboard. Zumbana threw him a rope, and thetwo boats were quickly tied off and drifting together.From his position, Zumbana saw empty cooking pots andpiles of rags, certainly nothing of value, but as the crewmanpulled a moth-eaten blanket aside all thoughts of money werechased from his mind.A young woman and two boys lay beneath the old blanket.They were clearly dead. Their faces were covered with soresfrom the sun and their bodies stiff. Their clothing was tattered,and a bloodstained rag was tied to the woman’s shoulder. Acloser look revealed scabbed wrists and ankles as if the three ofthem had once been held in cuffs and restraints.Zumbana crossed himself.“We should leave it,” one of the crewmen said.“It’s a bad omen,” another added.“No. We must respect the dead,” Zumbana replied. “Especiallythose who have been taken so young.”The men looked at him suspiciously but did as they wereordered. With a rope secured for towing, they turned onceagain for shore with the old double-ended boat trailing outbehind them.Zumbana moved to the stern, where he could keep an eyeon the small craft. His gaze went from the boat to the horizonbeyond. He wondered about the occupants of the small boat.Who were they? Where had they come from? What dangerhad they escaped only to die on the open sea? So young, hethought, considering the three bodies. So fragile.The boat itself was another mystery. The top plank in theboat’s side seemed as if it might have once been painted with aname, but it was unreadable now. He worried if the boat wouldmake it into port. Unlike its dead passengers, it seemed ancient.Certainly it was older than the three occupants. In fact, itlooked to him like it might belong to another era all together.