Paths of Courage

Paths of Courage by Mike Woodhams Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Paths of Courage by Mike Woodhams Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mike Woodhams
again of this latest situation.” He finished his drink and stood, indicating the meeting was over. “I will inform the JIC. John, let our people in Seoul know they’re doing a fine job. Thank you.”
    The meeting ended.
    John Green returned to his office three floors below, hoping the team sent into North Korea would find nothing and the nuclear submarine situation was a false alarm.

5

    Several hours after a non-stop trek through rugged, remote hill country, Ryder and his team arrived at the broad Sinhung Valley. Below lay the main north – south highway between the town of Sinhung and Hamhung, with railway tracks running parallel, and beyond them the Songchon River in full flood. The river in winter is a series of shallow rivulets running over gravel beds, but now, with the summer rains, it had swollen into a single, fast-moving mass of brown, surging water, 400 yards wide. There was no way they would be able to cross by swimming or even on some form of hashed up raft. It was too high and fast.
    The group rested up under the protection of a rocky outcrop, screened by bush, to contemplate the next move and to eat.
    â€œCrossing that torrent is definitely out,” said Ryder.
    The others all agreed.
    â€œWhere’s the nearest bridge?” Chol asked.
    Ryder referred to the map. “The nearest is in Sinhung, three miles north.” He ran his finger down the map. “There’s another about ten miles to the south at Chongho.”
    â€œChongho?” questioned Song, running his hand through his hair and staring at the map. The Korean displayed a quiet determination and confidence that impressed Ryder. If anything happened, he would be the one to take over.
    â€œSmall garrison town.”
    â€œNeeds to be avoided then,” said Chol, making himself comfortable. He leaned back against the rock face. Taking pistol from his sack, he removed and examined the fifteen- round magazine, took out the bullet in the breach then squeezed the trigger twice before replacing both, satisfied everything was okay. He attached the suppressor and put the pistol back into the sack.
    â€œSinhung is not a good option,” Ryder continued. “The town is close to the chemical weapons complex. You can guarantee there’ll be a heavy military presence.”
    â€œSo, a choice of two evils,” said Bom, shrugging his shoulders and opening a ration pack.
    â€œWe should go south,” offered Song. “More likely Chongho will have less of a military presence.”
    â€œA garrison town would be crawling with troops,” countered Bom.
    â€œSinhung presents more risk,” offered Chol, chewing on a strip of dried meat.
    They lapsed into silence.
    Grace spoke next. “If I may add my thoughts,” she said in an authoritative tone, looking coldly at Ryder. “It would seem to me easier to go unnoticed in a large town with lots of civilian people than in a small town more likely dominated by military personnel, where civilians could come under much closer scrutiny. Also my understanding is that going north through Sinhung would roughly maintain our north-westerly direction and may even cut down the time to the search area. Would that be correct, Mr Ryder?” she asked, not taking her eyes away from his and speaking for the first time since the death of the goat herder.
    She was right. “Good logic; exactly my thoughts.” A lengthy pause, then he said, “Sinhung it is then.” He glanced at the others, each of whom returned a grin. Ryder yearned for a cigarette, but made do chewing on a lump of dried meat.
    They spent another hour under the outcrop, resting and deciding the best route. Staying close to the valley highway was the most obvious and the easiest, but also the most dangerous for being discovered. Eventually they agreed to keep to the bush-clad hills right up to the outskirts of the town, even though this would entail a gruelling five-klick hike

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