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Scenes from Sugar Island

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A short selection from "Murder on Sugar Island," second book in the "Getting to Know Jack" series

Alex heard him coming. He thought at first it was Red.

But when Alex detected that the strides were too long and too loud to be those of a fourteen-year-old boy, he waited until his visitor emerged through the stand of evergreens that separated the resort from the fishing pier, and then casually glanced back over his shoulder to see who was approaching.

Recognizing his visitor, he disgustedly muttered, “Now that’s the last person I wanted to see tonight.”

Alex chose not to face or greet his visitor. His innate old-country stubbornness dictated that he avoid acknowledging the man’s presence for as long as possible.

Maybe he’ll just go away if I ignore him, he reasoned.

Alex breathed in deeply, relishing the cool breeze blowing in from the St. Mary’s River. He recalled the many times throughout the years when he’d walk along the riverbank, or out onto the pier where he tied his fishing boats, and there absorb the nuanced scents of life on Sugar Island.

It seemed the older he got, and the larger his resort grew, the greater the pressures he bore. On warm nights such as this, he would often carry a small aluminum rocking chair out to his favorite spot. There he would allow the lights of Sault Ste. Marie to put into perspective all the problems of his day.

That’s what he intended for this evening—to sit at the end of the pier, while his mind drifted gently downstream with the river.

Alex had no idea why this man was coming to visit him. He just wished it weren’t happening.  

The man was taller than most, and much taller than Alex. So when he walked up beside him and put his left hand firmly on his shoulder, Alex felt dwarfed.

“Alex, my friend,” the man said, “this is not how I wanted it to turn out.”

Surprised by the visitor’s harsh comment, Alex turned his head toward him and exclaimed in an inquiring fashion, “Excuse me?”

“You’ve not been very helpful to my friends,” the man said. “If it were up to me, I would let it pass. But I don’t have a choice about it now.”

The man then quickly stepped behind Alex but kept a vise-like grip on his shoulder. Using his free hand, he cocked the hammer of a .22 caliber revolver, with a four-inch barrel plus a suppressor, and pressed it against the back of Alex’s neck.

A chill seized Alex as he suddenly realized his last sensation on earth would be that of cold steel tingling the nerve endings right beneath his graying hairline.

His mind raced at fast-forward speed: “My god! I’m going to die!  Why didn’t I marry?  Why didn’t I at least bring some relatives over from Greece—people to help run the resort I built? What will become of it? And Red—what about Red?”

“Why are you doing this? Surely we can …” he began to plead. 

 But the tall man said nothing.

Instead, a small flash of light and a muted “pop” shattered the stillness of the autumn evening. Alex’s head jerked back slightly when the Long Rifle hollow-point round exploded his brain stem. His fingers stiffened and quivered as he fell face forward to the moist earth of the river’s bank—his locked knees not bending as he dropped.

But while Alex couldn’t process the sound of the shot that was killing him—Red did hear it.

And Red also heard the second pop a few seconds later, when the shooter put a round through the right temple of the dying man as he lay twitching on the ground.

The fourteen-year-old freckleface boy had stopped by to clean the boats and to hang out with his friend—Alex. Red did this almost every night during the resort season.

This time, however, he had arrived just in time to see a familiar figure approach his friend from behind and shoot him.

Red was neither large nor small for his age. He was, however, in amazing physical shape. That might seem surprising, given that he survived entirely on what food he could scrounge up.

Most of the time Red lived in a lean-to he had constructed from scavenged pieces of abandoned nearby hunting and fishing cabins. But when the weather turned cold, he would leave his unheated home and take up residence in various summer cottages on the island. It was not yet that time of year.

Red was regarded by many as a legend. Cottage owners knew that he might be moving in while they were gone, but most didn’t mind. Some would even leave food for him.

As repayment, Red would stockpile wood for their stove or fireplace and make sure that he left a cottage cleaner than he found it. Because he was very handy, Red would make small repairs, such as adjusting mal-fitting doors and patching leaky roofs. Sometimes a cottage owner would even leave a list of tasks for him. In a sense, Red served as their unpaid caretaker.

Red had bonded with Alex. He would show up at night to make certain that all refuse was removed from the fishing boats, and would then wash them all down on the inside.

And every night, on Alex’s orders, the resort’s cook would wrap up some food and place it in a small red and white cooler. The cook would then tuck the cooler under the back seat of the boat nearest the riverbank.

When Red had finished his tasks he would remove the food and set the cooler on the pier. It was the signal that the boats were ready for the next day. Now, with the season virtually over, Alex would be storing the boats. And Red would be out of a job. That fact weighed on Alex right up to the point the pea-sized projectile paralyzed his brain.  

The flash of light in the darkness and the sound of suppressed gunfire startled the boy, who was crouching with his dog in the underbrush only thirty feet away.

Red was adept at slipping around undetected, so it was not surprising that neither Alex nor the shooter suspected he was hiding close by.

Red didn’t talk. Actually, the boy couldn’t talk. A few years earlier he had so severely damaged his voice box that all he could do was squeeze out indiscernible sounds. While his dog was able to understand him, other people could not.

When visiting with Alex, Red relied on a simple set of signs and sounds they had developed to communicate with each other. Alex was fond of both Red and his dog, a large golden retriever whom Alex addressed simply as “Dog.”

The smell of spent gunpowder wafted over to where Red was hiding. He hugged his dog tightly to calm him. Red knew the shooter would kill them as well, were Dog to give their location away.

Shock blocked Red’s tears—for now.

Red watched the killer look out into the darkness, checking to see if his deed had been detected.

Once reasonably convinced no one had seen him shoot Alex, the tall man set the gun down on a picnic table next to the body, peeled off the latex gloves he had worn, and tossed them on top of the pistol. He then turned away from the body and long-strided his way toward a tool shed, which was located halfway up the hill toward the rear deck of the resort. Alex had ordered the shed to be left unlocked at night for Red’s benefit. The killer was looking for a trash bag to transport the murder weapon.

As soon as the killer disappeared into the shed, Red bolted toward the now still body of his friend. He dropped to his knees beside Alex. Thrusting his hands under the dead man’s head to turn it, he felt the sticky warmth of wet blood. Red realized Alex was dead. He pulled his hands back quickly, and for a long moment he stared at them in the moonlight. He was shocked to see how brown blood looked under a full moon. And the smell. The pungent ferrous odor of wet blood—those two sensations gripped his emotions as he knelt silently beside his fallen friend.

Suddenly Red realized that he had very little time. He would mourn later. Right now he had to escape.

As he jumped to his feet he spotted the gun on the picnic table. Perhaps thinking that if he took the gun he would prevent the tall man from shooting him, he grabbed it.

Bolting back into the brush, Red headed toward his shelter deep in the woods. Dog followed close behind.

It began to sink in. His tears mixed with snot as he ran faster and faster through the forest.

He was familiar with eluding capture. Ever since his parents died he had been forced to spend much of his life running and hiding. The authorities had attempted numerous times to place him in foster care, but he would always escape to his Sugar Island hideaway.

Even in the darkness, Red had no problem finding his way. When he reached the small spring-fed stream that passed between the resort and his destination, instead of merely jumping across it, he and Dog jumped into the water and ran upstream fifty yards.

They emerged from the creek on a lengthy patch of rock and then continued their getaway through the woods. Experience had taught Red that this could slow down any effort to follow him.

As he passed through the secret passageway that led into his mini-compound, he carefully brushed out the tracks behind him. Once inside his shelter, he quickly secured the door, snatched his sleeping bag, and pulled it into a dark corner. Sliding down the wall, he drew Dog into his arms, covered them both up, and convulsed in tears.

He then realized that he was still tightly gripping the gun that had killed his friend. With an angry flip of his wrist, he flung it across the floor. The weapon slammed forcefully against the far wall, dragging with it a hitchhiker—one of the killer’s latex gloves glued to it by blowback blood.

After a few moments, Dog slid out from under the sleeping bag and assumed a defensive posture between Red and the shelter’s entrance.

For several hours Red sat weeping. Frequently startled by forest sounds, he would snap his head up. A single shaft of mid-October moonlight cast an eerie streak across his floor, but it provided enough light to confirm that Dog still stood guard.

Sometime before sunrise, but after Red had finally succumbed to his fatigue, a loud voice pierced the calm.

Dog sounded a discreet warning growl. Red awoke and lunged forward to silence him before he could bark.

 “Hey Red!” Red! I know you can hear me. You’ve got something that belongs to me. That’s all I’m after. Eventually, you’ll have to give it up … might as well do it now. You know me—we’re old buddies. Right? I promise not to hurt you, Red. I just want what’s mine.”

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  Michael Carrier's "Getting to Know Jack Series"
 
  Jack and the
New York
Death Mask
(Jan. 2013)
Murder on
Sugar Island
(Aug. 2013)
Superior
Peril
(Nov. 2013)
Superior
Intrigue
(Aug. 2014)
 
   
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  Sugar Island
Girl, Missing in Paris

(Aug. 2014)
Wealthy Street
Murders

(June 2014)
Murders in
Strangmoor
Bog

(June 2015)
Watch for New
Jack Handler
Series in 2016
"Jack's Justice"
 
   
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Available in
Early 2016
 
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Click here to read what people are saying about Michael Carrier's latest books.

 - --Mario are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in a good thriller, and it kept me guessing to the very end. Fantastic read with an awesome detective duo. By KatieWhat people are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in a good thriller, and it kept me guessing to the very end. Fantastic read with an awesome detective duo. By KatieWhat people are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in a good thriller, and it kept me guessing to the very end. Fantastic read with an awesome detective duo. By Katie--Mario are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in a good thriller, and it kept me guessing to the very end. Fantastic read with an awesome detective duo. By KatieWhat people are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in a good thriller, and it kept me guessing to the very end. Fantastic read with an awesome detective duo. By KatieWhat people are saying about this book: This review is from: Murder on Sugar Island: Kill or die quickly on this mysterious northern island (Getting to Know Jack) (Paperback). Move over James Patterson and David Baldacci ...Michael Carrier is the newest great suspense author!!! Murder on Sugar Island is an intense thrill ride!! Michael Carrier's character Jack Handler is a retired Chicago detective who keeps finding himself suspenseful situations....I seriously couldn't put this book down!!! Definitely a must read for those who enjoy David Baldacci, James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Being a Michigander, I loved that this book is based in the UP. When is the next Jack book coming out? –by Mario on August 19. Finally there is a new author who will challenge the likes of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci. In this latest mystery, Sugar Island (in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula) is used as a fitting backdrop to the wild action. It is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t want to put down until the final page. —Island Book. Murder on Sugar Island is a fast paced mystery full of twists and turns. If you like James Patterson, you'll enjoy Michael Carrier's second novel in the Getting to Know Jack series. This riveting thriller will keep you turning pages all the way to the shocking end. —Cascade Writer's Group. A good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and kept coming back to it whenever I had the free time. The characters were really good. Connelly and Baldacci should approve—by Dave on August 10, 2013. If you like James Patterson and Michael Connelly, you'll love Michael Carrier. Carrier has proven that he can hang with the best of them (seriously- we're talking Patterson and Connelly) with his newest book. It has all of the great, edge-of-your-seat action and suspense that you'd expect in