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To China with Love Chapter One

Chapter 1
Outside, and directly to the right of the entry door to the diver lock-out chamber (AKA the wet-room), hung a waterproof monitor, and on it Henry, Jack’s good friend and sizable right-hand man, impatiently watched Jack make his way toward the tether cable via video captured by the permanently-affixed camera on the small deck of the mini-sub. But, just as was the case earlier with Agent One, as Jack approached the point of attachment, his image fell out of range of the camera, and so his activity fell off the monitor.
By “point of attachment,” I am referring to the place at which the sinking South Korean fishing boat was cabled to the mini-sub Jack and his SEAL team were using for their covert mission. The UOES3 Button 5.60, mini-sub selected for this operation was, at that time, headed against its will toward the bottom of the Yellow Sea under the tow of the ill-fated fishing boat.
Less than an hour earlier, one of the SEALs on board with Jack had attached a cable from the South Korean vessel so that the mini-sub could be secretly pulled out of the vicinity of the communist neighbor to the north. Those responsible for planning the mission thought it best if the mini-sub refrained from running any unnecessary mechanical equipment that might be detected by North Korean or Chinese patrols.
Unfortunately, even though they were now well south of the 38th parallel, a tenacious North Korean patrol boat had followed them across that imaginary line and sent the fishing boat toward the bottom by ramming it.
Henry took another look at his watch, and then impatiently addressed Agent Two.
“I’m gonna need some gear,” Henry said. “Can you fix me up? And in a hurry?!”
“Yes,” Agent Two said. “But you know what Jack said as well as I do. He told the both of us that if anything happened to him, while he was out there, give it half an hour, then cut him loose and, if at all possible, get the hell out of the area as fast as we can. … And, he also demanded that if for any reason, someone had to go back out, that it would be a SEAL, not you. He was very adamant about that. He gave you strict orders not to leave this sub. And he was, he is, the boss. I think it’s very clear that it’s my job to handle this from here. Not yours.”
Agent Two had also watched Jack disappear, but from a different screen.
“Listen to me!” Henry growled. “Jack said that I should be the one to pull him back in, if something goes wrong. So, just shut the hell up and help me get ready.”
“Have you ever done this before?” the agent asked.
“Of course,” Henry said. “I’ve dived a lot. Now, don’t waste any more of my time. Get that shit ready for me! And do it now!”
Agent Two knew that Henry was lying about everything. He had heard Jack tell Henry that under no circumstance should he (Henry) ever leave the sub, and that if anyone, besides him (Jack), needed to go outside the sub, it ought to be a SEAL. And Jack had told Agent Two privately that Henry had never before even thought of donning diving equipment, and that Henry was totally lacking in the type of experience necessary to attempt such an undertaking.
Nevertheless, even though Agent Two could tell that Henry was lying, he knew that the big man was determined to do whatever it might take to save his friend. So, Agent Two accepted the reality of the situation and followed Henry’s orders.
But, in his mind, Agent Two did not think Henry, or any of the rest of them, would survive to go back home. Nevertheless, he proceeded to prepare Henry for his possible excursion outside the submarine. That preparation included fitting Henry with a very sophisticated re-breather apparatus, along with a short verbal reminder as to how to work it.
As soon as the wet-room was pumped out, Henry opened the door and stepped into it.
“Fill it for me and bring it up to pressure,” Henry said. “And let me know when I can open the hatch. Okay?”
“Yup,” Agent Two replied. He then muttered to himself while he helped Henry with the equipment: “This bastard has no idea what he’s about to walk into. He’s gonna kill himself. … But, what the hell, Roger told us when we accepted this mission that none of us are likely make it outta here alive anyway. That’s just a simple fact.”
The “Roger” Agent Two was alluding to was Secret Service Agent Roger Minsk, Jack’s old friend and frequent liaison between Jack and Former President Bob Fulbright.
Agent Two double-checked all of Henry’s equipment, particularly making sure the oxygen was functioning properly on the re-breather. As soon as Henry had stepped through and sealed the door he began filling the lock-out chamber. It was only a long minute before the little room was full. Henry took a look at his watch, but it had stopped working because it was not rated to operate under that much pressure.
“It’s got to have been twenty-five minutes since Jack went out,” he muttered in his mind.
“Am I good to go yet?” he entered on the monitor..
“Pressure’s up,” Agent Two replied. “Check the hatch. Should open just fine. … If not, it soon will.”
Henry adjusted his goggles and opened the hatch. He looked around and found where Jack had tied the rope off. The rope I’m describing was the same one that had been tied to the ankle of Agent One—the SEAL who had gone missing in the earlier attempt to disconnect the tether cable. That ankle rope had gone slack during Agent One’s efforts. Jack initially attempted to signal Agent One using their pre-established three-tug communication, but he found the rope totally loose, and so he pulled it back and secured it to his own ankle.
Agent One, and now Jack, had done that so that they could use the rope to pull themselves back to safety should they be swept off the fast-sinking mini-sub. Or, so Henry, or another team member, could use it to pull them back to the sub in the event of serious injury—incapacitating, or worse.
Sticking his head and shoulders through the opening, Henry tugged firmly on the rope three times. While Henry and Jack had not beforehand firmly established the three-tug protocol with one another, Henry assumed that Jack would have been responsive to that signal given that it was set up for the earlier dive. But there was no response.
He tried it again, but with the same result.
At that point Henry was growing justifiably concerned. So, he carefully eased his large body further up through the hatch. Now he was standing on the last rung of the egress ladder. He tried the tug signal once again. Still nothing.
Henry then stepped down to the rung below so he could better brace himself—besides, the extra dozen inches did not substantially improve his field of vision. And he began pulling back on the rope. At first it seemed solidly tied off. But then it appeared to free up a bit. It felt to him like he was pulling a sack of water-soaked flour through the water. But, he kept pulling, and the rope continued to coil in his powerful hands.
The mini-sub then noticeably began to slow down, and at the same time the sinking fishing boat dropped out of sight. The pilot of the mini-sub also noticed the change, and so he cut the power and leveled out the mini-sub.
“Looks like picking up speed worked!” Henry muttered in his mind. “So much for ‘Casey Jones’ Locker’, looks like Jack’s got us disconnected from that damn fishing boat. That’s a very good thing. … Maybe we ain’t gonna die today after all.
Jack had earlier ordered the pilot to pick up speed and attempt to dive. His reason—to take the stress off of the tether cable to make it easier to disconnect.
Henry was relieved to see that apparently there had been some success with lessening the descent. Perhaps it was brought about by the fishing boat hitting the bottom, or, maybe Jack actually managed to disconnect the cable, Henry was thinking. … But, I do wonder why he doesn’t return my signals.
With his hopes substantially escalated, he ceased reeling the rope in and once again tried the three-tug signal. But disappointment quickly crept back in when the signal was not returned. He re-positioned his feet so he could begin pulling on the rope again. He found that the drag on the rope had lessened now that their mini-sub had virtually stopped in the water. But still he was receiving no positive support for any optimism.
However, in less than a minute the unimaginable happened. As reeled in the rope, he spotted the faint outline of what appeared to be a body at the end of it. Henry was in shock, but he kept pulling. After he had managed to pull the rope in another twelve or fifteen feet he saw something beginning to appear over the side of the mini-sub. Carefully he maintained the tension on the rope as he slowly stepped up again to the topmost rung. And, as he re-balanced himself, he focused his eyes on what was beginning to emerge at the end of the rope.
Initially all he could see was Jack’s foot with the rope tied around the ankle.
“Oh my God,” he silently mumbled. “Jack! What happened to you?”
Most of the corpse was hidden from full view because it was getting hung up on the small railing on the mini-sub. Henry would periodically lessen the tension, and then try reeling it in again. But he wasn’t having much success. At best he was barely inching the lifeless body along, and then it suddenly slid past the railing and disappeared entirely. Fortunately, Henry had maintained his grip on the rope. And so, while it did slide out of sight, he was still able to stop its fall. Yet, it remained out of his field of vision.
When he began pulling in the rope again, he was able to reel the body in only until it reached the railing. There it became severely hung up once more.
Henry was almost ready to venture outside mini-sub further in order to achieve a better angle from which to pull, but he was stopped in his tracks when the most unexpected of events took place. It caught him by such surprise that he could barely believe his eyes.











SAULT – a thriller by Michael Carrier January 2, 2021 Action & Adventure Latest Jack Handler Thriller Deals With Soo Locks Explosion Review by Tyler R. Tichelaar

Sault: What Could be Worse than Great Lakes Erosion?  is the fourteenth Jack Handler novel by Michael Carrier. That said, it can be read as a stand-alone book with little trouble. I have not yet read all of Michael Carrier’s books, but I have read the first several, so I was basically familiar with many of the main characters. Carrier makes it easy to follow the story, because he gives short, catch-up briefings on characters and events. Also, as a rather clever marketing strategy, he lets you know which books in the series to read if you want to know more about a character who previously made an appearance. Furthermore, at the end of the book is a summary of all the major characters in the series (though I wish this had been at the beginning).

If they have read the previous books, readers might feel a tad impatient with some of the back-story descriptions in the opening chapters, but Carrier moves through it clearly for new readers before venturing into the main story. The book soon becomes a page-turner.

Sault is really one of the most ingenious and frightening books in this series. The premise is that an explosion has happened at the Soo Locks. At first, it’s not clear who caused it or why, but it’s clearly some sort of terrorist act, whether domestic or international. I was a little disappointed that the explosion was not experienced directly by the main characters—there was a bit more telling than showing—but that’s because our hero, Jack Handler, is in New York when it happens. He’s there hunting down killers, and the narrative switches to New York to catch us up as Jack seeks closure for past wrongs from previous books. An entertaining couple of stupid criminals are involved in this escapade that takes place just before Jack learns of the explosion at the Sault.

Once Jack is aware of the terrorist event, he quickly returns to Michigan because his two adopted sons went on a fishing trip with his friend, nicknamed Legend, and now they are all missing. The explosion blew up two locks, causing a tsunami-like overflow of water through the locks and Great Lakes, causing all trace of the boys to be lost.

As Jack and his colleagues search for the boys, we learn more about the events leading up to the explosion. For some time, Legend has been theorizing that the Great Lakes’ water levels are artificially high because businessmen are manipulating them to make more money by being able to haul heavier cargoes while not having to spend money on dredging. The problem is the higher water levels threaten the homes and cabins of many who own lakeshore property. While the connection between the blowing up of the Soo Locks and water levels in the Great Lakes is not clear at first, as the novel progresses, more and more answers are found.

I won’t give away more of the plot, but there’s plenty of action for Jack Handler and the other characters. People are shot to be kept silent—the people who shoot them are also shot to be kept silent—and others are left stranded to die. Criminals operate under false names, and a former First Lady of the United States is involved in a crime-ring.

Best of all, readers will enjoy revisiting these characters and journeying back to the U.P., even if it has become devastated in many ways. The novel suggests the iron industry will suffer as a result of the destroyed locks, and an economic depression may ensue, but at least Jack Handler is able to right a few wrongs and save a few lives. He may not be Superman, but he can certainly handle most problems that come his way, so his name rather suits him.

If you like a good thriller, Michael Carrier is an author to check out. His plots are engaging, sometimes nail-biting, and his characters are as attractive and believable as any by Michael Connelly, James Patterson, or Steve Hamilton. And best of all, a fifteenth book, starting a new series within the series, is in the works.

 

Review by Dr. Tyler Tichelaar, author of Kawbawgam

PhD and award-winning author of When Teddy Came to Town and Kawbawgam

Grissom: If you try and chase two rabbits you end up losing them both.