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Authors: Clive Cussler

The Solomon Curse

ALSO BY CLIVE CUSSLER

DIRK PITT® ADVENTURES

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Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed
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Copyright © 2015 by Sandecker, RLLLP

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Cussler, Clive.

The solomon curse / Clive Cussler and Russell Blake.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-19209-6

I. Blake, Russell. II. Title.

PS3553.U75S65 2015 2015015832

813'.54—dc23

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Contents

Also by Clive Cussler

Title Page

Copyright

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER 45

CHAPTER 46

CHAPTER 47

CHAPTER 48

CHAPTER 49

CHAPTER 50

CHAPTER 51

CHAPTER 52

CHAPTER 53

CHAPTER 54

CHAPTER 55

PROLOGUE

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, one week ago

Aldo pounded through the brush, crashing through the jungle, as he ran for his life. His breathing rasped as he pushed vines from his path, sweat coursing down his face, eyes searching for a hint of a trail. Branches scratched him, drawing blood. Ignoring the pain, he drove himself harder, listening for sounds of pursuit.

He stopped at the edge of a winding stream, a tangerine moonglow on its rippling surface, and debated crossing it to continue deeper into the rain forest or following it to the sea.

Then he heard them.

Dogs.

They weren't far behind.

He needed to keep moving. If his pursuers caught him, he was worse than dead.

Aldo's bare feet splashed in the stream as he chose to follow the water. A jagged stone tore his foot open. Ignoring the spike of pain, he
continued along the far bank, veering in and out of the water to throw off the dogs.

His moves were driven purely by instinct. Aldo was just seventeen, but tonight he'd die like a man if he was caught.

The thought fueled him: lose them or die. There was no third option.

He picked up his pace when he heard the snap of twigs behind him. Only a heartbeat away. Urging himself forward, caution abandoned, he fought to put enough distance between himself and his trackers to buy a slim chance at survival.

A native of Guadalcanal, Aldo never came to this part of the island—nobody did—so he had no special knowledge of the area, no sly tricks that would gain him an advantage. All he had was panic-fueled energy and the desperation of a cornered rat.

He heard them closing in on him.

How had he gotten sucked into this nightmare? It seemed impossible, yet he was racing for his life in the dark of night. A thicket of bamboo rose out of the darkness on his right and for a moment he considered trying to hide, his exhaustion arguing for it with every ragged gasp.

Aldo's side hurt, a sharp lance of pain below his rib cage, but he didn't allow himself to think about it. He had to keep going.

But where? Assuming he evaded his pursuers, where could he go that he would be safe? It was a small island. He could just return home, hoping that it was all a bad dream. But they would come for him before he could tell anyone and he'd just disappear.

Like the others.

Thunder roared overhead. The heavens let loose a deluge of warm rain, and Aldo smiled even as his gaze roved over the brush. The rain might throw the dogs off his trail.

A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and for a second his surroundings lit up in the bright flash. He spotted a faint game track in the
heavy foliage to his left and made a snap decision. The ground was spongy and slick from the cloudburst as he climbed the bank and followed the route parallel to the waterline. Now Aldo could clearly hear the dogs on his trail, all pretense of stealth discarded as they sensed his proximity.

Any hope he'd lost them evaporated as claws scrabbled on the ground behind him, followed by clomping boots. Aldo willed himself to move even faster, now running blind, the skin of his feet shredded and bleeding.

And then he tumbled and slipped onto his back and down a slope on a blanket of wet leaves, gravity pulling him inexorably to the bottom of the gulch the trail skirted. He thudded to a stop, stunned, his momentum halted by a tree trunk. When he reached up and felt his skull, his fingers came away slick with blood. Gulping for air like a drowning man, he tried to orient himself as he fought the dizziness.

Aldo forced himself up. His ribs and left arm radiated pain and immediately he knew he'd broken bones. Thankfully, not the ones he needed to run, but the agony was enough to hobble him in the harsh environment. He looked around in the near-total darkness, his vision blurry from the fall, and spotted a promising opening between the vines. He moved into the gap and found himself on another track.

His pulse thudded in his ears as he drove himself to the limits of his endurance. His cracked ribs sent searing spasms through his chest with each breath. The sound of his trackers faded as he pushed himself to the brink, and for the first time since he'd bolted for freedom he dared hope he might make it.

Aldo's foot snagged under a vine and he went down. He uttered an involuntary cry as he hit the ground and his ankle gave way with a sickening snap. Tears of rage welled in his eyes, and then the world faded as he passed out.

When he regained consciousness a few minutes later, Aldo found
himself staring into a snarling canine's muzzle. His heart sank even before the hated voice of his pursuer drifted to him through a fog—the last words he'd ever hear, he was sure.

“Don't you know you can never escape on an island?”

A boot slammed into his temple before he could get his mouth to cooperate with his brain, to protest or plead or curse or beg for mercy. A starburst exploded in his head; the agony was excruciating. He tried to muster a defense, but his arms and legs were leaden.

Aldo's last thought was that this was some kind of mistake, a misunderstanding, and then the boot landed again, harder. His neck snapped with a crack, and Aldo's final living sensation was the tingle of the warm rain splattering on his face, and then he silently slipped into another world.

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