Chapter 10: Close Target Reconnaissance
Friday, August, 7, 2026
City Hotel – Derry
Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland
After negotiations, His Majesty’s Government and the Irish government reach an agreement. If Swan’s Mill really is the Irish Drug Cartel’s HQ, a drug factory, or an MDMA distribution centre, then the recce and DA (Direct Action) assault will both be conducted by the UKSF Group. Before the assault is greenlighted, the recce will have to prove that Swan’s Mill is at least one of the above.
Even though the Irish Defence Force have their own special forces (Army Ranger Wing), their experience in special operations is nothing like as complete as the SAS, so it’s decided that they will replace the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) as the supporting unit. The Army Ranger Wing will be tasked to cordon the immediate area during the assault. Cormac will be in overall command of the mission and Michael will be the field commander during the recce and assault. The recce phase of this mission is codenamed Operation Rowman, and if they manage to prove that Swan’s Mill is part of the Irish Drug Cartel, the assault phase will be codenamed Operation Crankshaft. Cormac appoints Sarah as liaison between the Interpol IRT and the SAS for both operations.
It’s only a twenty-five-minute drive from Derry to Buncrana so they’ll set up their Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Derry. Because there are no military bases in County Derry, they book the Presidential Suite at the City Hotel, Derry. A few minutes after Michael and Sarah enter the suite, the doorbell rings. It turns out Al came with George, Dave, and Robert, pushing great heaps of luggage on the hotel trolley. They all look utterly exhausted, but are delighted to see Sarah. Sarah is happy to see her new friends again too.
“Michael told us a few days ago that the Home Office has recommended you a KGM. Congratulations, Sarah!” says Al, shaking her hand. The others join him in congratulating Sarah on her medal.
“Thanks, Al,” says Sarah, embarrassed. “Michael will get one too, you know.”
“Yeah, we know,” says George. “We already took the piss out of him for getting the same medal as you, since you slotted thirteen of the buggers and he only got a piddly nine.”
Sarah laughs, although killing more men than her lover isn’t something she’s especially proud of. “How was the Long Drag?” she asks Dave.
“We didn’t break the record,” answers Dave. “It’s too bad you weren’t there to spur us on.”
Michael and Sarah help them sort out their kit. While helping them, Sarah notices that all of them are dirty and smelly, as if they haven’t showered in over a week. She doesn’t say anything, but makes a mental note not to stand downwind from them. A few minutes later, another person arrives, and it turns out to be the CO of the Army Ranger Wing. He looks like Broussard, but muscular and completely bald.
“Dia dhuit, Michael, conas atá tú?”
“Tá mé go maith, Alwyn, go robh maith agat. This is Sarah from Interpol.”
“Leifteanant-Choirnéal Alwyn Buckley, Army Ranger Wing,” he introduces himself in his Munster-Irish accent.
“Inspector Sarah Dharmawan, INP,” answers Sarah, shaking his hand.
“Aren’t ye Tony’s sister?” asks Alwyn.
Sarah rolls her eyes and her friends laugh at her expense. She invites Alwyn to the dinner table, where they’ve already laid out satellite photos and the blueprints of Swan’s Mill. As the UK doesn’t have its own reconnaissance satellite, MoD has enlisted the US’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to take satellite images of Swan’s Mill.
Swan’s Mill can be viewed by Google Earth and Google Street View, so the images from those programs are also used as reference. Headquarters, Planning & Intelligence Section of the SAS has a blueprint for almost all of the buildings in the UK and all of them have been converted into 3D. The blueprint for Swan’s Mill provided by the Irish government has also been converted into 3D. Now they can see the interior of Swan’s Mill in 3D with a special tablet the size of the dinner table. Swan’s Mill looks impressively majestic and everyone can see that it will be quite a challenge for the assault force to secure it. During the past week, Al, George, Dave, and Robert have conducted a recce of Swan’s Mill and installed dozens of surveillance cameras. They present their findings while uploading their photos to the TV by Bluetooth.
Swan’s Mill is between the Mala an Mhuilinn road and the River Owenkillew in the city of Buncrana. Swan’s Mill looks like a four-storey apartment complex with three connecting buildings forming the letter ‘J’. The third building is the smallest and, according to the blueprints, is only used as a stairway. All three buildings have a shield roof, making an assault from on high almost impossible. On the north side of Swan’s Mill, there’s an old, abandoned train bridge called Mill Bridge that crosses the River Owenkillew. Across the river from Swan’s Mill is a forest block. The 4-man team have set up their Lying Up Point (LUP) inside the forest block.
What’s most curious is that the three buildings only have one entrance between them, in the first building facing the tight parking space. During the recce, Al and the others have discreetly surveyed the buildings’ surrounds, but they can’t find another entrance besides that one. All the windows are covered with plywood, preventing anyone seeing the interior. Outdoor CCTVs are installed everywhere, pointed out towards the surrounding areas, including the river.
They observed that four men and four men only go out for shopping every day, and return with enough food for up to a hundred people. Their thermographic cameras counted more than ninety people inside the buildings. Each night around 21:30, around a hundred women arrive and enter the building and most go home the next morning. Al has asked other troopers to follow some of the women, who turned out, predictably enough, to be prostitutes from Buncrana and the surrounding cities. They’ve also observed that after breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner time, fifty or so men exit the building to smoke by the river. They’ve installed video cameras to observe the target and now there’s another team continuing the recce.
“Have you seen any of the senior members?” asks Sarah.
They shake their heads and start showing pictures of the men smoking by the river. There are hundreds of pictures and they’ve successfully taken close-up pictures of most of their faces.
Sarah suddenly recognizes someone. “That’s Seamus Fitzgerald!”
“That’s him indeed,” says Michael. “Very good job, lads! Now go take a shower before you stink up the room.”
Al and George head to the spacious bathroom and Robert and Dave prepare several TV monitors to catch the live streaming from the OPs. Sarah orders food for twenty people through room service while Michael uploads all the pictures and sends them to their teammates and also to MoD. Although Seamus is not a part of the top echelon, his presence indicates that the Irish Drug Cartel has activities in the building.
“What do you think, Alwyn?” asks Michael.
“I’m sure glad ye poor sods will be the ones doing the assault,” comments Alwyn, looking at the 3D rendering from the blueprints.
Despite his words, Sarah can clearly see that Alwyn is frustrated his unit hasn’t been trusted with this mission.
“Indeed. You might have to deal with something like this in the future, so how about we both come up with an assault plan?” asks Michael.
“Sure. Let me have a copy of all the intel ye have and I’ll discuss this with my men,” says Alwyn.
Michael sends all their intelligence data to Alwyn. Meanwhile, Al and George have finished washing and now it’s Robert and Dave’s turn to shower.
“I’ll have a draft for ye tomorrow afternoon,” Alwyn promises. He steals a glance at Sarah before leaving.
“In case we decide to execute an assault, let’s have all the airlines to and from the Derry Airport fly low above the target. This will distract them and get them used to the noise. Al, could you please call the head shed and have him take care of that?” orders Michael.
“Sure, old buddy,” answers Al.
“The target is on the way to a Coyles Arro warehouse on An Rorybhóthar road. I would love to have their lorries drive around a few times at night.” Coyles Arro is a home and garden store in the heart of Buncrana, but their warehouse is on An Rorybhóthar road, which passes the Mala an Mhuilinn road.
“I’ll contact Liz and have her discreetly ask the company to do that,” offers Sarah.
“Thank you, Sarah. Does anyone have any suggestions for now?” asks Michael.
“How about if I ‘interrogate’ a couple of their lady friends?” suggests George, grinning broadly.
“You’d really enjoy that, wouldn’t you?” quips Michael.
Sarah starts to smirk, but she then has a thought. “Wait a minute! We have been assuming all of them are prostitutes, right? Some of our intel suggested that The Cartel has female players, but we never had any confirmation. What if some of them are players or distributors?”
Al and George are taken aback for a moment, but they then nod in agreement and give Sarah a smile. Making assumptions is a rookie mistake when conducting a recce, and they should’ve known better.
“Good one, Sarah! However, I don’t want the local coppers involved in the investigation. Could you please call Liz and Matt and see whether Garda HQ and PSNI HQ can help us with background checks on all of the women? You should call Paul as well, in case the NCA has additional info. Please don’t have the Garda and PSNI follow anybody or pick them up - we don’t want to alert the players,” says Michael. “In the meantime, I’ll send the files to MoD to see if any of the girls have military experience.”
Sarah nods and conducts a conference call with Paul, Liz, and Matt in Dublin, while Michael sends the women’s pictures to his contact at MoD. Matt will go to Derry and Liz to Letterkenny to investigate the women in each city. Liz will also meet with the owner of Coyles Arro to follow up on Michael’s request.
“We should follow the girls, starting tonight, and try to establish their status. Al, could you please take the lead on this and deploy Mountain Troop for the surveillance?” orders Michael.
“Shouldn’t The Det be doing that?” asks Al.
“I’ve been asking the head shed right from the start for them to help us on the recce, but he won’t allow it for some reason. He said that all intelligence operations will be conducted by B squadron, who are ‘On The Team’. It must be politics or something,” explains Michael, shrugging.
Michael isn’t that good at lying. Al gives him a disbelieving look, but Michael just ignores him. Their food finally arrives and is immediately swarmed on by the starving SAS men.
Saturday, August 8, 2026
Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland
Michael and Sarah wake up late and have brunch together.
“Fancy a stroll around Derry?” invites Michael.
“That sounds lovely, but shouldn’t you focus on planning the assault?” asks Sarah.
“Let me worry about that,” says Michael, winking.
They walk south and soon arrive at the Tower Museum, inside the City Walls. At the museum, they see an exhibition called ‘An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera’, which tells the story of a ship called La Trinidad Valencera, one of the largest ships of the Spanish Armada. In the year 1588, it sank in a storm at Kinnagoe Bay, County Donegal. It was found 400 years later by divers from the City of Derry Sub Aqua Club.
Michael enthusiastically starts telling Sarah about the Naval Battle of Gravelines that took place in Dutch waters in 1588, in which the English managed to defeat The Spanish Armada. The English lost less than a hundred men, but the Spanish Armada lost up to 5,000, forcing them to retreat towards Ireland. One of the escaping ships was La Trinidad Valencera. The English gained a decisive victory because they absolutely refused to use the normal tactics of that period. The only reason the English didn’t sink the whole Spanish Armada is because they ran out of ammo and were also forced to retreat. That victory is considered one of England’s greatest victories since the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Michael is a history buff and it’s fun to watch him enthuse about British victories.
After the museum, they walk on the City Walls, adorned by twenty-four cannons that were used to defend the city during the siege in 1689. Sarah really enjoys walking around the city with Michael like this, but she knows that Michael’s mind is focused on his mission. Soon, it’s time for them to return to the hotel.
Saturday, August 8, 2026
City Hotel – Derry
Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland
When they return to the hotel, everyone has already gathered at the dining table and their friends are conducting another debriefing with Cormac. The CO of the SAS has doubts about the single entrance and the four men of B Squadron are trying to convince him that that’s really all there is. This is confirmed by the blueprints of Swan’s Mill.
Cormac is still not convinced. “Look, you’re assuming the blueprints are correct. Who’s to say they built it according to the blueprints? Who’s to say they haven’t renovated it in secret? Remember that most of these chaps are ex-army and follow the same doctrine as we do. If this was your headquarters, would you want to be stationed in a stronghold with only one exit?”
They fall silent because Cormac is right.
“Let’s just assume for now that this place is not their headquarters, but a drug factory or a distribution centre and those girls are the distributors. How do they supply the raw materials? You haven’t seen them receive any supplies through the front door except groceries, right?” Cormac challenges once again.
They can only remain silent.
“What if they built an underwater access tunnel to smuggle their supplies from under the river?” Robert suddenly asks in his thick Brummie accent that makes everyone wince. “The only place we haven’t checked is the river itself. How about if we conduct a recce in the river near the target?”
“That’s brilliant, Robert!” says Michael. “Let’s do it. Please check also whether it’s possible to smuggle supplies from Lough Swilly directly to the target by using the river.”
Lough Swilly is a sea inlet west of Buncrana and only about 200 metres from Swan’s Mill. The River Owenkillew passes beside Swan’s Mill and flows towards Lough Swilly and eventually connects to the North Atlantic Sea. Robert calls the Senior NCO of Boat Troop, who is currently at Hamworthy Barracks.
“I’ll check with James to see whether it’s possible to smuggle the drugs from Indonesia through Lough Swilly,” offers Sarah.
“Thank you, Sarah,” says Michael.
After Sarah briefs James, the doorbell rings. Sarah opens the door and Alwyn arrives with his Battalion Sergeant Major. Alwyn immediately joins the others while the Sergeant Major introduces himself to Sarah.
“Maor-Sáirsint Cathláin Emmet Liammhóir, Army Ranger Wing,” he says, shaking her hand.
“Inspector Sarah Dharmawan, INP,” says Sarah.
“It’s an honour to finally meet ye in person, Sarah,” says Emmet, grinning.
Sarah laughs. “Does the Army Ranger Wing have my picture at your camp also?”
“Unfortunately, the SAS blokes wouldn’t give us a copy for some reason. A couple of my Rangers even had their smartphones smashed for taking pictures of the one in the Interest Room,” says Emmet.
Sarah is happy that the SAS has kept their promise not to spread her picture. At the dinner table, Alwyn is given a quick briefing and asked to present his assault plan. Sarah listens carefully and looks enthusiastic being involved in the planning stages of a military assault.
As expected, Alwyn’s plan is simple, with an assault from both sides of the buildings. Twenty-four Rangers will cross Mill Bridge and assault the first building and forty-eight Rangers will come by lorry and assault the second building from the road. All Rangers will enter through the windows with frame charges from the ground floor and then go upstairs to assault the upper floors through the third building. The upper floors will be assaulted simultaneously after each team is in position. If there really is a basement, Alwyn will add another team to assault the basement from the ground floor.
Sarah sees everyone nodding on hearing Alwyn’s plan and Michael looking dead serious noting everything in his tablet.
Cormac suddenly looks at Sarah. “What do you think, Sarah?” he asks, smiling at her.
Sarah has her own opinion about Alwyn’s plan, but she is hesitant to speak out.
“You might have to do this yourself someday when you finally find their factory in Indonesia so feel free to voice your opinion. This is what we call a ‘Chinese parliament’ session in The Regiment, in which everyone is free to voice his or her suggestions and opinions,” explains Cormac.
“Well, I think Alwyn’s assault plan is simple with minimum risks during entry,” answers Sarah.
“But?” asks Cormac, still smiling.
“But… isn’t it a bit… predictable?” asks Sarah carefully.
Sarah sees Cormac’s smile widen, but Alwyn goes red-faced. He doesn’t like having his work criticized, especially by a civilian. Now it’s Michael’s turn to present his own assault plan. Sarah knows that Michael hasn’t prepared anything yet and she is worried that her lover will look silly… or sillier than usual, anyway.
It turns out Michael has made a plan on the spot and his plan is 180 degrees to Alwyn’s plan. Michael suggests using Air Troop to assault the upper floors of the first two buildings using helicopters. They’ll place frame charges on each window of the third floor and then secure the third floor of both buildings simultaneously. After the third floor is secured, they’ll go downstairs to secure the lower floors. The main principle behind Michael’s plan is that it will be much safer for the assault force to go downstairs than up. If Swan’s Mill does have an underwater access, Boat Troop will assault the basement from there. Meanwhile, Mobility Troop will provide suppressing fire from the road and Mountain Troop will provide suppressing fire from across the river. The ground floor will eventually be secured by Air Troop while Boat Troop concentrates on the basement.
“And what do you think about Michael’s assault plan, Sarah?” asks Cormac.
“It’s different to Alwyn’s plan and much more complicated. It’s more audacious during the entry and much more dangerous, especially with that kind of roof. Air Troop would have to abseil directly into the stronghold by helicopter. That carries risks, of course. However, it will be much safer to clear downstairs than up.”
“Which plan would you pick, Sarah?” asks Cormac once again.
Sarah thinks hard for a few moments. There’s no effective way to counter a situation if an X-Ray throws some form of explosives, like grenades, to an assault force going upstairs. This is every field commander’s nightmare scenario when leading an assault upstairs. To prevent large numbers of casualties, one team member has to throw themselves on top of the explosives and pray that their body armour can withstand the blast and prevent it from killing and wounding the others. Nobody wants to do that, obviously. Theoretically, as the commander, Sarah is the one who would have to sacrifice herself. She has practiced this scenario hundreds of times, and in training Sarah automatically and without hesitation would throw herself on top of the explosives, allowing the others to run as fast as they could to the next floor. In a real-life situation, the blast would most likely kill her. At the very least, it would maim her. But that’s the risk every special forces operative faces.
On the other hand, X-Rays tend to not throw explosives towards an assault force going downstairs because there’s a big chance the explosives could go right back to them. This is one of the reasons why special forces units prefer to assault from the roof than from the ground floor.
Both plans carry risks. Alwyn’s plan is simpler during the entry, but carries high risk when the assault force has to storm upstairs to secure the upper floors. Michael’s plan carries high risks during the entry, but is safer for them during the assault. The most critical phase of an assault is during the entry and Michael’s entry is risky indeed, but if there really is an underwater access from the river, Michael’s plan has an additional element of surprise.
“I would pick Michael’s plan,” answers Sarah, looking straight at Cormac.
“I agree with Sarah,” says Cormac without any hesitation. “We will fully go with Michael’s assault plan.”
Alwyn is offended when he realizes that his ideas are completely ignored. “What the fuck, Mac? Michael asked me to plan a fucking assault and ye haven’t implemented even one of my fucking ideas! What the fuck am I here for?” he says while standing up.
“Calm down, Alwyn, and we’ll explain it to you. This is a Chinese parliament session, remember?” says Michael.
“Fine! But this is supposed to be a covert military operation. Why the fuck is this fucking policewoman in here?” asks Alwyn, his chin pointing towards Sarah.
Everyone goes silent and Sarah can clearly see that her friends are getting angry. Only Michael is expressionless, but Sarah knows him well enough to see that he’s angry. She also understands that he’s in no position to defend her.
Sarah decides to save everyone from this awkward situation and starts to stand up. “If you don’t want me here then I’ll just step outside. I’ll be at the gym downstairs.”
“Stand firm, Sarah!” orders Cormac. He stands up to face Alwyn, and he’s red-faced from anger. “That fucking policewoman slotted thirteen of the fucking Cartel in a single fucking day! In all this time, Alwyn, how many of the fucking Cartel has your unit managed to slot?”
Alwyn and Emmet are surprised, but look sceptical. The Garda ERU and the Army Ranger Wing have never succeeded in killing Cartel members. There’s absolutely no way an Indonesian policewoman could kill thirteen of them on her own.
“She also managed to slot Tiny fucking Mullins all by herself with just a fucking pen by ramming it through his fucking chest! Could you have done the same thing, dickhead?” asks Al, giving Alwyn a frightening look.
Al’s fists are clenched as if he’s gearing up to punch Alwyn out, which makes Alwyn take a step back. Emmet’s jaw drops upon hearing that. Tiny used to be one of his men and he’d heard rumours during his funeral that Tiny was killed with a pen through his heart. Emmet had dismissed the rumours because that feat would’ve been impossible, especially to someone like Tiny.
“The Home Office has recommended her for a fucking KGM and the Director has already invested her with a fucking MC! I strongly suggest you treat our national fucking heroes with respect, you arrogant fucking piece of shit!” shouts Robert, standing up and slamming the table with his fist.
The sound of it echoes throughout the suite and Sarah is stunned. She has never seen a special forces commander being brought down like that. She is also touched because she didn’t expect her friends to defend her so fiercely. On the other hand, Alwyn looks repentant. He didn’t know that Sarah was a British hero and the guilt is almost overwhelming him.
“Right, I was out of line and I am truly sorry. Please accept my most sincere apologies, Sarah,” says Alwyn, thrusting his hand toward her. He looks so regretful that he can’t even look her in the eyes.
“Sure, Alwyn,” answers Sarah without hesitation.
Emmet also thrusts his hand toward Sarah. “Tiny was one of my Rangers and he has been a thorn in my side these past few years. Thank ye for getting rid of him.”
Sarah only smiles at Emmet. Killing Tiny is not something she’s proud of.
“Now that this is settled, let’s get back to work, shall we?” orders Cormac. He has calmed down, but his eyes are still giving Alwyn a hard look. “The reason we’ve asked you to do this, Alwyn, is because of Donald Mullins. We must assume the worst, that he has helped prepare the defence of their stronghold and devised some countermeasures to counter any assault from us. He will most likely have assumed that you and the Army Ranger Wing would be the ones doing the assault and his countermeasures will probably be based on what you proposed a few minutes ago.”
“Think of this like the Naval Battle of Gravelines, Alwyn. The opposition expect us to do one thing, but we go completely the other way,” explains Michael.
Sarah suddenly realizes why Michael took her to the Tower Museum.
“Ye could’ve just told us about this, Michael,” says Alwyn, defensively.
“But then your fucking plans would’ve been entirely different to the ones you just fucking proposed! Roight?” asks Al sharply. He hasn’t really forgiven Alwyn for treating Sarah the way he did.
Alwyn and Emmet fall silent. They have to admit that Al is right.
“You’ve done us a great service, Alwyn. Now let’s figure out what countermeasures Tiny would have made to counter your assault and then let’s all work together to build upon Michael’s draft, shall we?” orders Cormac.
Throughout the night, the nine people work hard together perfecting Michael’s assault plan. After midnight, Robert picks up his Senior NCO at the airport and conducts a recce with him at the River Owenkillew.
Sunday, August 9, 2026
City Hotel – Derry
Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland
The next morning, Sarah receives word from James that there is only one Irish-flagged ship, called MV Báinigh, that routinely goes between the Kalibaru Port in Jakarta and the Killybegs port in County Donegal. The mixed specialist cargo ship is currently at the Arctic Circle and plans to arrive in Killybegs on August 22, 2026. Sarah contacts NCB Indonesia and asks them to discreetly investigate the manifest of MV Báinigh.
A unit from the Royal Corps of Engineers are currently building a mock-up of Swan’s Mill at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, England for B Squadron to train on. Cormac didn’t tell anybody, but he also asked QinetiQ to build another mock-up of Swan’s Mill at a remote area in PATA so that the Army Ranger Wing can train there. Robert arrives with his Senior NCO after conducting the recce. His name is Pierce McGregor and he’s even better looking than Robert. The two men debrief the others.
There’s a large tunnel inside the river that heads towards Swan’s Mill. They’ve entered it and noticed that it heads under Swan’s Mill. There is a watertight pressure door between the tunnel and Swan’s Mill, and since this was more than ten metres underground, there’s a big chance the Swan’s Mill’s basement has two storeys. Everything they did they recorded on video and the rest of the team can see the same things they saw and reach the same conclusion. Michael orders Robert and Pierce to think of ways The Cartel might smuggle the narcotics from MV Báinigh to Swan’s Mill while the other men from Boat Troop place sensors in the tunnel and the river itself. If there are any movements in either the tunnel or the river, they can monitor them from the FOB.
Matt asks to meet Michael and Sarah at the Thompson’s Restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel. They sit near the window facing the River Foyle. Matt tells them that all the women from Derry have been investigated by PSNI HQ. Most of them are prostitutes, but some have criminal records for distributing drugs.
“Some of the girls are most likely distributors for The Cartel. PSNI could pick them up and interrogate them about Swan’s Mill,” offers Matt.
“Negative, Matt. That would compromise the operation,” says Michael.
“How about we put surveillance on them?”
“We already have a team following them, Matt,” says Michael.
“Oh, well,” says Matt, looking deflated. “Is there anything else I can do while I’m in Derry?”
Sarah looks toward the River Foyle and her mind starts wandering, thinking about the time she fought in the river. That gives her an idea. “Matt, could you discreetly check all the members of the City of Derry Sub Aqua Club?”
“What are ye thinking?” asks Matt.
Sarah explains that The Cartel is likely to smuggle the MDMA from under the River Owenkillew. “Diving gear is difficult to maintain. Unless The Cartel have divers on retention and have diving gear and maintenance equipment, they might be using outside divers to smuggle the MDMA into Swan’s Mill. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance they’ll have hired people from the club.”
Michael and Matt think hard about Sarah’s idea.
“They could be hiring club members, or divers from The Cartel could be renting gear from the club. For a start, I’ll check with the club whether their diving gear is available for rent. If not, then I’ll do a thorough background check to see whether there are club members with a criminal record. Let me get right on this. Good idea, Sarah!” says Matt as he stands up to leave them.
“I’ll check with MoD and Paul whether they know of any Cartel members with diver’s qualifications,” says Michael.
While Michael makes a call, Liz joins them.
“I met Matt outside and he told me ye were in the restaurant,” says Liz. “I’ve checked the girls ye sent me. All of them have criminal records except one and she looks interesting.”
Liz shows her one of the pictures. The woman looks to be in her forties and has long, red hair. She’s tall and fearsomely fit, though not very pretty.
“Who is she?” asks Sarah.
“That’s the question. Paul, Matt, and I don’t have anything on her,” says Liz.
“Wait a minute!” says Sarah, suddenly remembering a picture.
She opens one of James’s files that show Rory Hanrahan talking to a tall, fit, red-headed woman with her back turned towards the camera.
“Do you think this is the same woman?” asks Sarah.
Sarah and Liz study the picture for a while. The two women have similar features, but of course they can’t be a hundred percent sure, so Liz sends the pictures to the Garda Technical Bureau for photo analysis. They discuss other things until Michael finally finishes his call. He looks satisfied.
“MoD has identified one of the girls using their face recognition software and they will send me her file in a few minutes. She’s an Irishwoman named Muireann de Buitléir and she used to be an MCDO or Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officer based in Scotland. She resigned from the Royal Navy for personal reasons in 2004 and her last rank was Leftenant-Commander. Of all the people in The Cartel, this is the only person we know whose background is as a rupert from the Royal Navy, so there is a high chance she’s a senior member of The Cartel. It seems like the rumours there’s a female in their top echelons are correct.”
“MCDO? Is that something like the SBS or the Yank’s Navy SEALs?” asks Liz.
“No, they don’t have a combat role. They’re basically EOD specialists who mostly work underwater, which is quite a fearsome location to perform EOD if you really think about it,” explains Michael.
“The Royal Navy has female divers?” asks Liz.
“Sure, women may join any unit in His Majesty’s Armed Forces as long as they’re given a non-combat role… for now,” says Michael, giving Sarah a meaningful smile.
A couple of e-mails enter Michael’s mailbox, but he sends Muireann’s file to his teammates before he opens them. Liz and Sarah study the file on their tablets. The tall, fit, red-headed woman at Swan’s Mill turns out to be Muireann. She resigned from the Royal Navy because she wanted to marry an NCO from the British Army. She had to resign because she was an officer and he was just an NCO. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say who she married.
Michael starts forwarding his e-mails. “MoD has also stated that almost all of the chaps from the photos from Swan’s Mill have military backgrounds, including a significant number from the Royal Irish Regiment. Paul said seven of them have civilian diving certifications and one of them is Seamus Fitzgerald. Paul also said that Muireann has a dive boat under her name called Swan’s Tide, currently moored in the Lough Swilly Marina at Fahan, County Donegal. This means that they can use her boat to transport the MDMA from MV Báinigh into Swan’s Mill.”
Michael asks Robert and Pierce to come down and join them. Liz’s eyes light up when she’s introduced to the two men of Boat Troop, both of whom are tall, sexy, and good looking. Michael tells them about Muireann de Buitléir and they in turn tell the others about their supposition. There’s a chance that members of The Cartel onboard MV Báinigh dump their cargo overboard when they arrive at the mouth of Lough Swilly and Cartel members from Swan’s Mill pick it up using Muireann’s boat. Once the boat reaches the mouth of the River Owenkillew, they smuggle the goods in from under the river. Their supposition sounds good, so Michael orders Robert and Boat Troop to conduct a recce and place bugs and Active Radio Frequency Identification (Active RFID) on Swan’s Tide, allowing them to track her if she ever leaves the marina.
Matt calls and says that tourists can rent diving gear from the City of Derry Sub Aqua Club. Muireann de Buitléir and seven other people from Swan’s Mill are listed as members and Muireann likes to rent diving gear for herself. She and the seven men currently have plans to rent diving gear for three days, from August 19 to August 21, 2026. Those dates are well within the timeframe of MV Báinigh entering the UK and Irish borders.
Sarah also receives a report from NCB Indonesia that MV Báinigh has turbines in its cargo, produced by PT. Horizon Turbines and Propulsions, a company located in Citeureup, Bogor. The turbines are produced for oil & gas companies, operating in the North Atlantic Sea. Sarah then asks NCB Indonesia to investigate the company.
The Interpol team members, except for Michael, gather in Dublin to discuss the new developments. They conclude that Muireann is part of the top echelon, in charge of production and distribution of MDMA for Ireland, and Swan’s Mill is a drug manufacturing plant and a distribution centre.
The next few days, the Interpol team is busy presenting their findings to various agencies of the government of the Republic of Ireland and His Majesty’s Government. Both governments agree with Interpol’s assessment and the assault by the UKSF Group is finally given a green light. The mission is a go. Cormac will need police support on the scene so he appoints Liz as liaison between the UKSF Group and An Garda Síochána.
The Director decides that B Squadron, SAS will assault Swan’s Mill and Swan’s Tide, and M Squadron, SBS will assault MV Báinigh. Both will be done simultaneously on Thursday August 20, 2026 at 01:30 in the morning. This means that they have less than two weeks to prepare and train for the assault. Once the mock-ups of Swan’s Mill have been built, Cormac orders the Army Ranger Wing to train at PATA and B Squadron will train for their assault at RAF Odiham. M Squadron will train for their assault at Portland Harbour with a ship called RFA Sir Tristram, and a 4-man team from 6th Boat Troop will train at Hamworthy Barracks in Poole, Dorset.
Unfortunately for all, The Cartel’s British Army contact is a member of the UKSF Group… currently training at PATA.