David Dun: The Black Silent

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David Dun The Black Silent
  • Название:
    The Black Silent
  • Автор:
  • Жанр:
    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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David Dun


The Black Silent

PROLOGUE

The shock of no air hit him at the same instant someone pulled his mask loose from behind, filling it with icy water. Despite the shock, Ben's diver's mind instinctively began a countdown: he had two minutes.

Ben couldn't sense his attacker's location-the other diver had to be staying behind him, hovering at the edge of a forest of kelp, where Ben had been concentrating on a broken pump. Forcing himself to stay calm, he tried reaching up for his air hose, hoping to follow it with his fingers to the mouthpiece. But his assailant had looped his right wrist with a restraint. Ben struggled against the cuff, quickly realizing that his left wrist had also been fastened.

It had been perhaps fifteen seconds since his last breath. He pulled frantically on both the lines, but seemed only to tighten the restraints around his wrists. In the blur he saw that the material around his wrists led to some sort of white line around his torso and thighs. It was a simple but effective binding slipped on from behind in the distraction of work. Ben had no time to solve it. Compressed air pumped into the seawater behind his head, making a tantalizing bubbling sound. He wrenched his arms and reached for the air button on his buoyancy compensator to inflate and ascend. By hunching over he could barely push the valve. Instead of the comforting feeling of an inflated vest, a torrent of bubbles escaped the BC. The other diver had opened the release valve when Ben used the compressed air.

He tried hard kicks to propel himself to the surface, but his restraints seemed to be tied to the net wall of the octopus pen.

Panic set in. He forced himself to think of something else. Pumping air into his dry suit wouldn't work because his assailant had opened the heavy zipper on his back. Releasing his weight belt might help. Ben had enough leeway to unbuckle it, but when it fell away, he didn't ascend. It hung on him somehow, perhaps clipped to the lines at his thighs.

Almost unconsciously, Ben's fingers inched toward the backup mouthpiece velcroed to the BC at his chest. The lines at his wrists were too short; he couldn't bring it to his mouth. He hunched over, but his lips came just short of the mouthpiece.

Ben could feel the other diver's nonchalance, confidence born no doubt from days of preparation. His enemy would be agile and skilled, younger than Ben, waiting for him to tire, watching from behind while Ben drowned.

The man dropped to Ben's leg, wrapping him in kelp. They would blame Glaucus, the octopus that lived in the pen, or the kelp, or both for the drowning. It had all been choreographed. By Frick.

It has to be Frick.

The anger Ben felt couldn't compete with his growing fear. Ugly thoughts passed through his oxygen-starved head as the air in his blood dissipated.

Without thought he gave a mighty tug with his right arm and curled and hunched as far as he could. Miraculously, either the line gave a little or he hunched farther this time, because he was able to get his lips over the emergency mouthpiece. Sweet air bled into his mouth.

Through the saltwater murk Ben thought he saw the other diver now, still working below him and not looking up. The killer had made a mistake. Ben sucked deeply. The air gave him strength and hope. Ben forced himself to breathe regularly. And think.

Deep breaths, relax, relax, relax.

Flick's face flashed again in his mind. With it came the solution: Frick wants it to look like a fatal accident. To survive, play dead.

Ben let his head dip as if he were losing consciousness. To add to the ploy he released the emergency mouthpiece. After an appropriate time he relaxed his body and listened to the vigorous bubbling from his equipment. Ben remained slack even as his lungs screamed once again for air. He felt the diver move up behind him, apparently satisfied that he had fouled his legs with enough kelp, so that he could unfasten the body from the mesh netting. He was probably watching him, waiting for the last exhalation of breath and bubbles.

Relax… be a dead man.

He felt the diver turning him to see his face… Playing dead was becoming easier. Ben sensed his consciousness flickering, the freezing cold water feeling warmer. Through half-closed lids a blurry image appeared as the diver put his hands on Ben's face, peering at him.

The diver moved downward once again, fiddling with Ben's leg and the sidewall mesh.

Oxygen-starved instincts overtook Ben's thoughts and he leaned to the emergency mouthpiece and sucked air. Consciousness bloomed again, along with the pain, the cold, and the fear.

The diver hadn't appeared to notice. A new thought occurred to Ben: on his dangling weight belt hung a knife, and he could reach farther down than up because the wrist restraints had been fixed low on his body and around his thighs. Ben managed to remove the knife and still the diver concentrated on fastening Ben's leg with kelp to the sidewall of the pen.

Ben quickly used his free hands to clear his mask. Through the strands of kelp he could just make out the diver's first-stage regulator below him, atop the tank. He gently took hold of the diver's hose and put his knife to it, waiting until the man released Ben's last leg restraint from the fence. Once freed, Ben cut the diver's primary air hose cleanly, then twisted behind him and cut the emergency air hose. As the diver flailed, himself now wound in the kelp, Ben slashed his BC so it would hold no air. The slice was so vigorous it opened the wet suit and drew blood.

Ben took more breaths from his emergency air. Thinking became easier, colors brighter.

Ben inhaled deeply as he hung fast to the other diver's tank and weight belt. Predictably, the diver dropped his weights into Ben's hand, and Ben managed to cram the belt into the strap around his own thigh, where it hung with his own. They were going down together despite the kelp. Ben was heavy, his dry suit nearly full of water. The other diver was in serious trouble, struggling, and from the sounds of it, choking. He was becoming ineffective. Ben made him more so by removing the man's dive mask. He turned as the diver turned, staying behind him, just as the other diver had done to him, clinging to his tank.

Seconds later, the diver released his backpack. Ben put an arm around him from behind, keeping the man tightly against him. They hit the bottom, Ben on his knees, still behind the other diver, both of them swathed in kelp. In desperation the man shook himself and pried at Ben's fingers, but he was growing weak. The entire harness for the tank and backpack was loose. The man was still strong enough to get clear. Ben grabbed the diver's hood, pulled it off his head, and used it as a handle. They stayed down.

The man tried his BC again, but merely blew clouds of bubbles through the knife slit.

Out came a knife. Ben saw it coming in time to bring his own knife up and slash the arm. Then he grabbed the diver's knife hand and the weakened attacker lost his grip on the knife.

In seconds all struggle went out of the man and he started to convulse. Ben cut loose the weight belts dangling from the lines, along with the pump clipped to his own belt, and hacked away at the kelp. They ascended with the buoyancy of the man's wet suit and the neoprene of Ben's own dry suit.

As they rose, a horrible thought came to Ben. If Frick were behind this, then he or another accomplice might be waiting at the surface. Or in Ben's office in the Sanker Foundation. Or outside. Ben would be no match for anyone on the dock. He slipped under his assailant and pushed him to the surface, remaining below his body the whole time. The mass of kelp should keep anyone on the dock from spotting Ben. He waited.

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