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datatime: 2022-11-26 16:21:39 Author:ZsqsJAdK

"Good luck to you, Juan. I'll stand by the radio at this end."

One hour and forty-five minute had passed since Shannon and Miles had entered the sacrificial pool. Any attempt at rescue now seemed an empty gesture. Nothing could save Shannon and Miles now. They had to be dead, their air used up long ago. Two more victims added to the countless number who had disappeared into the morbid waters through the centuries.

The tops of the surrounding trees were whipped into a frenzy as the helicopter began its descent into a small clearing beside the sinkhole. The landing skids were still in the air when the fuselage door opened and a tall man with wavy black hair made an agile leap to the ground. He was dressed in a thin, shorty wet suit for diving in warm waters. Ignoring the younger people, he walked directly up to the anthropologist.

"They planned to resurface after thirty minutes."

"The nearest naval facility is at Trujillo. I'll alert the base commander and go from there."

In an expectant hush everyone around the rim of the pool listened. The faint thumping sound of a rotor blade beating the air came toward them, growing louder with each passing moment. A minute later a turquoise helicopter with the letters NUMA painted on its sides swept into view.

"All we need now," he muttered to himself, "are two dead archaeologists in the pool."

One of the female students heard it first. She cupped her hands to her ears and turned back and forth like a radar antenna. "A helicopter" she announced excitedly, pointing in a westerly direction through the tops of the trees.

One of the female students heard it first. She cupped her hands to her ears and turned back and forth like a radar antenna. "A helicopter" she announced excitedly, pointing in a westerly direction through the tops of the trees.

In a voice frantic with desperation, Chaco had informed him that the Peruvian navy was caught unprepared for an emergency. Their water escape and recovery team was on a training mission far to the south of Peru near the Chilean border. It was impossible for them to airlift the dive team and their equipment to the sinkhole before sundown. Chaco helplessly shared Miller's anxiety over the slow response time. But this was South America and speed was seldom a priority.

Miller checked his watch again. "Twenty-seven minutes ago."

"The nearest naval facility is at Trujillo. I'll alert the base commander and go from there."

"Can you send the dive team ahead by helicopter?" asked Miller.

In Chachapoyas, Chaco pulled out a handkerchief and mopped his face. He was a man of order. Unforeseen obstacles or problems irritated him. If the two stupid Americans drowned themselves, there would be a government inquiry. Despite Chaco's influence, the Peruvian news media were bound to make an overblown incident out of it. The consequences might very well prove to be nothing less than disastrous.

"How long did they plan to stay down?"

The tops of the surrounding trees were whipped into a frenzy as the helicopter began its descent into a small clearing beside the sinkhole. The landing skids were still in the air when the fuselage door opened and a tall man with wavy black hair made an agile leap to the ground. He was dressed in a thin, shorty wet suit for diving in warm waters. Ignoring the younger people, he walked directly up to the anthropologist.

Chaco caught his breath, closed his eyes for a second. "Doesn't sound good, my friend. This is not what we planned."

"Keep me informed of any new developments."

"We can't afford government meddling. Certainly not now. Can you arrange to have a dive rescue team rushed to the sinkhole?"

Where had it come from? Miller wondered, his spirits rising. It obviously didn't have the markings of the Peruvian navy. It had to be a civilian craft.

In a voice frantic with desperation, Chaco had informed him that the Peruvian navy was caught unprepared for an emergency. Their water escape and recovery team was on a training mission far to the south of Peru near the Chilean border. It was impossible for them to airlift the dive team and their equipment to the sinkhole before sundown. Chaco helplessly shared Miller's anxiety over the slow response time. But this was South America and speed was seldom a priority.

In Chachapoyas, Chaco pulled out a handkerchief and mopped his face. He was a man of order. Unforeseen obstacles or problems irritated him. If the two stupid Americans drowned themselves, there would be a government inquiry. Despite Chaco's influence, the Peruvian news media were bound to make an overblown incident out of it. The consequences might very well prove to be nothing less than disastrous.

"When did they enter the water?"

In an expectant hush everyone around the rim of the pool listened. The faint thumping sound of a rotor blade beating the air came toward them, growing louder with each passing moment. A minute later a turquoise helicopter with the letters NUMA painted on its sides swept into view.

Miller said nothing. There was nothing more to say. He broke contact with Chaco and hurried back to the silent group of students, who were staring down into the sinkhole with dread.

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