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datatime: 2022-12-04 13:13:59 Author:aApCSAvA

"How long did they plan to stay down?"

"They'll come through," offered Chaco in a hollow tone. "Rodgers is a master diver. He doesn't make mistakes."

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.

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

"Keep me informed of any new developments."

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.

Then with shaking hands he gripped the radio transmitter and began sending out an urgent call for help.

"It's still early." Chaco sighed. "So what's the problem?"

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

"When did they enter the water?"

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.

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

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.

"It's still early." Chaco sighed. "So what's the problem?"

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

"It's still early." Chaco sighed. "So what's the problem?"

"I will, I promise you," Miller said grimly.

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

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.

"They planned to resurface after thirty minutes."

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 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.

"It's still early." Chaco sighed. "So what's the problem?"

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

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

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