As our herpes reel at the discovery of an empty briefcase, the Deep Encounter and the Earl of Wattlesfield are heading for Wellington to offload their hungry survivors and signal the start of the investigation into the disaster. Damaged in the rescue, the Deep Encounter cannot keep pace with the container ship, so everyone on board spontaneously sings a Woodie Guthrie song as they leave her behind. It is, we learn, “a moving moment”.

The Earl of Wattlesfield arrives first, and is “met with a joyous, yet solemn, welcome. Thousands of people lined the waterfront, staring silently” – sounds more sinister than joyous if you ask me. After Clive takes a moment to remind us that the proceeding events documented the worst fire in fictional maritime history, the good folk of New Zealand immediately begin dislocating their spines in their desperation to provide succour to the needy survivors, offering food, clothing and shelter, even the suspension of immigration laws, such is their generosity – and it really is a sacrifice, since the entire population of New Zealand can’t be much more than two thousand people itself.

When the Deep Encounter arrives, though, now we feel the love. An armada of boats escort her into dock, crowds cheer, cars horn, church bells ring and confetti rains from the sky.

The crowds could easily see the scraped turquoise paint and mangles plates of the hull where she had beaten herself against the cruise ship during the incredible rescue of oh no, here it comes, wait for it, brace yourself, I hope you’re ready

nearly two thousand people.

Do you know what I wish? I wish Clive Cussler would just fucking get over it.

The crew and scientists had no idea they had become instant international celebrities and acclaimed heroes AND acclaimed heroes. They stood amazed at the resounding reception, unable to believe that it was for them, all certainly very surprised to be heroes now. They no longer looked like tired, bedraggled scientists and crew members and scientists. At seeing the welcoming armada, everyone had quickly prettied up and changed into their best clothes although to a scientist and/or crew member they were determined to remain flabbergasted at the utterly unexpected surprise shock waiting for them which they couldn’t believe or ever possibly have anticipated. Women wore dresses as is the norm, the male scientists slacks and sport coats, the crew in NUMA uniforms or “numaforms”.

Pitt® left the glory to Burch and the others. ARGH.

If I had a septic boil on the tip of my cock, I’d find it less annoying than Dirk Pitt®.

When they are finally docked a few significant events take place, the foremost being the departure of Kelly to return to her brownstone home in New York, where her tabby cat “Zippy” and a basset hound which answers, I kid you not, to “Shagnasty” will presumably be waiting for her. Pitt® doesn’t even bat an eyelid at that one, so she gives him her phone number.

“I’ll miss you, Kelly Egan.”

She looked into those incredible eyes and saw he was serious. SLEEEEEEEEEP! The blood suddenly rushed to Kelly’s face and she felt her knees weaken. She clutched at the railing, wondering what was coming over her It would be Dirk Pitt*, if he ever made his damn move. Stunned at losing control, she stood on her toes, abruptly circled her arms around Pitt®‘s head, pulled him down and kissed him long and hard. Her eyes were closed, but his widened in pleasurable surprise. Go, go, go, go, now, yes, do it, do it!

When she pulled back, she willed herself into a state of feminine composure, fighting the urge to squat on the deck and diddle her whimsy. “Thank you, Dirk Pitt®, for saving my life, and much, much more.” I think she means “sandwiches” here. Seems a bit heavy. She took a few steps and then turned. “My father’s leather case.”

“Yes,” he answered, unsure of her meaning. My God, he thought, am I suffering from aphasia? Maybe I have a brain lesion!

“It’s yours.”

“Backstroke ermine leftwise auger,” he replied, with grateful eroticism.

And then, she walked down the gangplank and out of his life. For now. I don’t know, but this prissiness on Pitt®‘s part is making me anxious for a vigorous banging to take place. If someone doesn’t trouser off and get down to action soon I’m just going to have to get increasingly offensive in my commentary until they do. Consider that a warning.

So, what is a jolly jack tar to do when he’s nobly avoiding universal acclaim and reward sex? Pitt® is debriefed, if you’ll pardon the phrase, over the phone by his boss, Admiral Sandecker. The two men trade gruff, manly quips while Sandecker chomps on his massive “personalised” cigar… read into that what you will …before the admiral informs him that the Deep Encounter will be heading right back out to the site of the Emerald Dolphin‘s watery grave to conduct the investigation into the mysterious sinking themselves. He says he is even sending someone who does have experience with marine disasters and deep submersion vessels, though it’s news to me that Dirk Pitt® doesn’t. Regardless, the end of the chapter is worth examining.

“Anybody I know?” asked Pitt®.

“You should,” said Sandecker cagily. “He’s your assistant special projects director.”

“Al Giordino!” Pitt® exclaimed happily … “You couldn’t have sent a better man.”

“Sandecker relished toying with Pitt®. “Yes, he said slyly. “I thought you’d think so.”

Something in this exchange leads me to wonder, why the sly caginess on the part of this admiral? He seems to like Pitt®, he seems to be sending him help in a welcome and capable form. Why then, the toying undertone? Perhaps there is more to this, “Al Giordino”, to this working relationship than meets the eye… I’ll be watching. Closely.

I know I’ve been a bit mean about Clive’s writing so far, but sometimes he takes a time-tested staple of the literary arts and gives it an inspirational twist. For example: characterisation, which is undoubtedly all about drawing a picture in your reader’s mind, bringing a human being to life with mere words, and is surely one of the cornerstones of fine fiction. And, if I may ask a rhetorical question, what BETTER way to draw such a lexicographical picture than by having your hero look at himself in a mirror? Then he’ll be seeing those same words too! It’s so simple, it’s genius!

The face and body on the other side were not what they were ten years ago. The hair had yet to show any indications of baldness. It was still thick, black and wavy like a cataclysmic oil spillage perhaps, but grey was beginning to creep in along the temples. The piercing green eyes beneath dense eyebrows had yet to dim. They were eyes passed on by his mother, and they had a hypnotic quality about them that seemed to reach into the very soul of people who came into contact with him. Sleep… Women were especially absorbed by his eyes. SLEEP! They sensed an aura about them, something that revealed him as a down-to-earth man who could be trusted. SLEEEEEEEEP!

Very moving. Cussler effortlessly creates not just a telling picture, but somehow manages to make his hero seem very familiar to his reader, as if we already knew him well, as if his face was already one… in our… er

[Page 49] …opaline green eyes… tall… lean… black hair… wavy… touch of gray… craggy features – wait – [Page 105] …craggy features – Huh.

Hmm. I wonder if Cussler is going to re-describe his hero every fifty pages or so through the entire book. Maybe, while rescuing a school bus full of screaming doe-eyed choirboys he’ll catch a glimpse of himself in the rear-view mirror and be transported on wings of memory to – well, let’s not get ahead of our selves. Repetative or not, it’s powerful stuff. Something tells me Dirk Pitt® is quite the pork swordsman. I can’t speak for the women out there – men haven’t been allowed that privilege since the 1950’s – but I’ve got to say – well, the 70’s – I’ve got to say that this humble man is pretty damn absorbed by those eyes too. And who wouldn’t be, with auras like that? Pitt® himself continues staring into the mirror (not to mention lightly running the fingers of one hand over his body) for another six paragraphs while thinking deeply. About things like… family.

Yes, he thought, his facial features came from his mother’s side of the family, while his humorous outlook on life contrary to conventional notions of genetics and his tall, lean body had definitely been passed down by his father prepare for redundancy and his father’s ancestors.

Like… love.

Two of his former loves had died under tragic circumstances, Summer Moran in a devastating underwater earthquake off Hawaii, and Autumn? Maeve Fletcher, shot by her sister off the coast of Tasmania. WOW. Like, just, WOW. He must really love the sea. And the soaps.

It was Summer who that’s “which” for a season, Clive, which never ceased to haunt his dreams. He always saw her swimming into the depths to find her father who was trapped in an underwater cavern, her lovely body and flowing red hair and “brilliant mind”? …no? vanishing into the green water of the Pacific. When he’d reached the surface for air and found her gone, he’d tried to dive back, but the men in the boat that rescued him knew it was hopeless and physically restrained him from returning. Physically , was it. Mm-hm. Had to be really, their psychic powers would have been no match for the aura of his eyes…

Like… hobbies.

Since that time, he had lived only for his work on and under the water. The sea became his mistress. Oh. Well then, fair enough. Except for his home in an old aircraft hangar on one corner of Washington’s Ronald Reagan Airport, which contained his car and airplane collection, train set and teddy bears, he was always happiest when on a research ship sailing the oceans of the world. Pulling Babes.

OH. “Summer” was her name. Okay, I got it.

Anyway, after musing thusly for a page or so, Pitt® decides to get his head down for some well-earned post-rescue-and-slaughter kip, only to remember that mysterious hottie he twice saved and who completely disappeared… how intriguing. Convinced she didn’t jump ship with the other tearfully grateful landlubbers – now on-board the Earl of Fucklesfield – he gets dressed and searches the ship from top to bottom, eventually finding her curled up asleep in a storage crate. Yeah. So he writes her a note.

Dear Lady,

When you wake, please come to my cabin on deck level two, number eight.

Dirk Pitt®

As an afterthought to entice her, he added,

Food and drink will be waiting. You can have coffee, tea, or Me.

He laid the note gently on her chest that’s assault, softly closed the lid to the crate really? and quietly stepped from the parts room to find a hammer and nails.

*

At slightly past seven in the evening, Kelly rapped lightly on Pitt®‘s cabin door. He opened it and found her, eyes lowered sheepishly, standing in the passageway, still clutching the handle of the leather case. He took her by the hand this is making me feel a bit uncomfortable and led her inside. “You must be starved,” he said, smiling to show he wasn’t angry or annoyed, as he understood these things to work. Eight hours later, her body was pronounced dead on the scene.

There’s something rather creepy about this guy, something that only gets creepier the longer he refrains from getting his thang on with this lusty wench. She’s his for the taking! What’s he waiting for?

Regardless, after his imminent victim scoffs down some sandwiches and good, wholesome milk, the Dirty Old Man of the Sea® and she get to talking, about her wonderful father’s genius, who would want to kill him, and what could possibly be in his mysterious briefcase. Why mysterious, do you ask? Because even Kelly doesn’t know – she doesn’t work with her father, being a merchandise analyst. Despite this career choice having nothing to do with the sea, Pitt® deigns not to spit in her lovely face.

Pitt®‘s lips spread slightly in a grin. Like I said: Creepy. “Not as exciting as creating new forms of energy.”

“Perhaps not,” she said, with a toss of the head that sent her light brown hair swirling in a cloud around her neck and shoulders, “but I make a good income.” Oh my god, is she SHEDDING it?

Hair loss horror aside, it turns out that not only did Papa Egan perfect a high powered, ecologically friendly super engine, he also perfected an impossible to replicate frictionless super-oil that would have made the world a perfect place for everyone except the EVIL oil companies, had his plans to share his discovery publicly been allowed to go ahead – aa-a-and, he had another, even more amazing project under his belt, “something that would cause an unbelievable impact on the future“.

What could it be? Nobody knows. But maybe the answer is in… The Mysterious Leather Briefcase! So, finally, at long last, Kelly opens the case her father was killed for – and discovers – it’s empty.

Bombshell.