When former US Army captain Eric Tucker decided to visit Old City in Jerusalem with his daughter and granddaughter, he thought it would be a chance to get some family time with his girls and enjoy his retirement. But when a terrorist organization threatens his family’s safety, Captain Tucker must reach into his past in order to survive. Can he do so without becoming the cold-blooded killer he once was?
Emir Farouk is falling on hard times, and the loyalty that once came so easily to him is dwindling. When an old man and a teenage girl from America appear in his sights, he believes it is a sign and orders his men to kidnap them. But things don’t go as planned…
What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse game between a powerful terrorist cell and one man who’s determined to protect his family, the woman he loves, and his ship. Captain Tucker can’t—and won’t—give in, even if it means returning to the man who led an elite unit of soldiers into claustrophobic tunnels after their enemies with nothing but flashlights, knives, and pistols: the infamous Tunnel Rats.
The big guy was barely on his feet when Eric rushed him. That set him back on his heels, his eyes wide. He was looking down at Eric’s feet.
In a flash, Eric knew what to do. The guy was scared of Eric’s feet. He’d seen Eric use them. He didn’t want to get kicked again. The thought had barely entered Eric’s mind when he reacted. Eric faked a kick. The guy went for it completely. But Eric did not kick. He punched him. Right on the chin. The guy’s eyes were on his feet. He never saw it coming. The punch snapped his head around in the kind of motion that can knock you out.
He stumbled backward but kept his feet. Inwardly, Eric respected that a little bit. The man had taken a powerful shot. Eric’s arms were strong from sailing, he knew how to punch, and that was a good one. The big guy tried to face Eric. His eyeballs were swimming. Gamely, he tried to swing anyway. It was clumsy and slow. Eric went under it. Then he closed quickly, chest-bumped the guy off balance, reached up, and pulled the guy’s collar backward as he rotated his hip under him. He was big and tall, with a high center of gravity. He went over easily. Eric upended him backward over his hip, lifted his feet, and drove the guy’s head—the very top of his head—into the cobblestones with all the force he could manage. Cobblestones are not a pleasant place to land on, especially the uneven cobblestone streets in the Old City of Jerusalem—and especially if you’re a big heavy guy with all that weight on you. The man could not cushion his fall. Like a juicy melon thrown on the street, his skull made a sickening wet thump as it smacked the cobblestones. His scalp split open, and blood poured out.
“Yeah!” Eric shouted with satisfaction. “The army also taught me a little judo. Tough luck for you, butthole.”
The guy still tried to get up. Eric dropped to a knee and ground-pounded him until he quit moving. Eric quickly backed away a step, watching the man, ready to pounce if he had any fight left in him. The man was breathing but not moving. He had decided not to get up. Good idea. The other guys were trying to crawl away. The third guy was spitting up bright frothy blood on the white blouse of a woman who was screaming and crying and trying to help him get away. “Definitely a punctured lung,” Eric thought. The second guy was on his knees crying and trying to straighten his broken arm. It was bent at a sickly angle. White bone was visible at the point of fracture. Eric ran down to them and shooed away the woman. He dragged them back up the street to the big guy and threw them on top of him. They didn’t resist. They did scream a lot.
Eric realized for the first time a small crowd had gathered. No surprise there. Having no one notice a fight like this in Old Jerusalem would be the surprise. The onlookers were mostly women and mostly Muslim, it appeared. They were yelling something. The same phrase. A helpful young woman translated for him.
“They want you to let them go,” she said.
“Let them go?” he asked, incredulous.
“Yes. The officers will come and arrest them.”
“Good,” Eric said. “These guys tried to kidnap my granddaughter. They’re not going anywhere but to jail—and to hell.”
The young woman translated his words to the crowd. They promptly started screaming and wailing even more hysterically.
“This is ridiculous. They attacked me,” he thought. “You’d think they’re the victims.”
But what seems to stand to reason in the West does not necessarily stand to reason in the Middle East. The women were growing more and more hysterical, and they began to motion to a young man in the crowd. They pushed him forward. He was maybe twenty at the most. To his credit, he stepped out bravely, trying to look confident. He yelled something at Eric, extended his arm, and shook a finger at him. Probably some insult. The women yelled something else, nodding approval. The young man smiled and nodded back at them, gaining confidence.
But Eric was still feeling cocky. It was an attitude he’d been full of in his youth. He was looking pretty ghastly. His left arm was covered in blood and dripping on the pavement. His face and shirt front were splattered with blood from pounding the big guy’s bloody head. The right side of his face was bruised and bloody. He smiled back at the kid and heard himself utter something like a growl. He started toward him. The guy’s smile vanished, panic swept across his face, and he decided to run. The women wailed in dismay.
“Smart,” Eric said. Something about a bloody old guy and three men down made the kid wiser.
Just then, Dottie screamed, “Poppa!” Eric turned and saw her running up the street with several Israeli cops trying hard to keep up.
“Thank God,” he thought.
“You’re hurt!” Dottie screamed as she dashed forward, tears welling in her eyes.
As he watched his beloved granddaughter run into his one good arm, he had a strange premonition. Somehow everything had changed, he thought. He didn’t know why everything had changed. It didn’t seem rational. They were attacked, but they were OK. It happens in this crazy world. Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of it. He’d survived. That should be the end of it. It was over, right? The cops were here, taking over the scene. Dottie was safe. But even as he answered questions and tore off a strip of his shirt to wrap around his bleeding arm, the uneasy feeling would not go away. Somehow he knew it. Everything had changed.
He was never more right.