The Policewoman

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Chapter 5: Close Quarters Battle

17:51 GMT

Wednesday June 3, 2026

City Hotel – Derry

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

The following day, the Interpol team check in at the City Hotel in Derry City, on the borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In Derry City, there are two Gwilliam’s clubs, one in the middle of the city on Shipquay Street and one in front of the River Foyle on Bay Road. Just like in Letterkenny, they conduct recces of the surrounds. Michael takes the Gwilliam’s on Bay Road and Sarah covers Shipquay. This time, Sarah’s with Matt.

“Why did you decide to join PSNI, Matt?” asks Sarah. This is the first time she’s worked closely with Matt and she takes the opportunity to observe him. With his healthy beard, he looks like a young Captain Haddock from the Tintin comics. Only a hell of a lot better looking.

“I’ve always wanted to be a copper,” answers Matt. “It must’ve been those TV shows I watched as a weean.”

“What was it like during The Troubles?”

“I didn’t experience any violence, but my parents did. Especially as they’ve always supported the Unionists, even though they’re Catholics. That didn’t win them many friends. See, you had the Unionists, who were mostly Protestant, who wanted to stay with Great Britain. And you had the Nationalists, who were mostly Catholic, who wanted a united Ireland. The Nationalists, who are a strong minority, still want a united Ireland, but now it’s all done through talking. In those days, it was shooting people or blowing them up. On both sides, mind. There used to be discrimination against us Irish Catholics, but that’s mostly been disappearing since the Good Friday Agreement.”

“I’m Catholic myself. There used to be discrimination against Irish Catholics?” asks Sarah, frowning.

“Oh, aye! A couple of decades ago if I had joined the RUC, the Protestants, who are mostly Unionists, would’ve given me a hard time. Catholics don’t usually fare well in government service unless they’re Unionists, and even then, they still face being discriminated against by the Protestants. Nowadays, discrimination - whether we’re Catholic or Protestant, Nationalist or Unionist - is all illegal. So now, for people in government service, Catholics like me and Michael won’t get discriminated against whether we’re Nationalists or Unionists,” says Matt, smiling when he sees Sarah’s eyes suddenly light up on finding out that Michael is also Catholic.

“What’s crime like in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK?”

“Northern Ireland is unique because of The Troubles. It’s the only place in the UK where many people carry guns. The fact that Northern Ireland has the highest unemployment rate doesn’t help either. This is why the PSNI is the only constabulary that issues guns to every single officer,” says Matt.

“What do you carry?”

“Glock 17 and a Glock 19 for backup. I suggest ye carry more mags for yer pistol, Sarah.”

Sarah only smiles at Matt. Of all the firefights she’s encountered, she has never once emptied her magazine, even though it only ever contains eight rounds.

The layout of Gwilliam’s in Shipquay is the same as in Letterkenny, so they decide not to spend much time there. They then meet at one of the hotel meeting rooms with Rudy, the commander of PSNI’s Special Operations Branch.

Unlike their previous operation, this time Michael and Sarah will visit both places in one night. Rudy complains that the Gwilliam’s on Bay Road is in a deserted area near Derry’s industrial complex; there are no buildings on the flanks nor behind the club. The Bay Road is in front of Gwilliam’s and across it is the River Foyle. This will make things complicated for Rudy and his unit providing cover for Michael and Sarah. They can’t get too close else they’ll be seen and the mission compromised. Instead, they’ll have to deploy some way back. This means that if Michael and Sarah need back up, it’ll take close to two minutes for his unit to reach them.

“You have snipers, right?” asks Michael.

“I can deploy them, but they’ll be at least 600 metres away. I’d rather not order them to shoot while ye are involved in a scuffle. Ye should call for backup once ye’re engaged because ye’ll be on yer own until reinforcement arrives. They will not deploy unless ye call for them,” explains Rudy in his thick South-Ulster accent.

“If I may suggest, you could deploy your snipers as observers. You can shoot them if any of them draw their firearms,” suggests Michael.

Rudy glances at Broussard, who looks unhappy with the idea, but then nods in agreement. The location of Gwilliam’s Shipquay is bang in the middle of the bustling city. The main problem with this site lies with the back door, which opens into a narrow, deserted alley. Rudy and his unit also can’t give cover to Michael and Sarah in this area. Broussard looks worried about this, as there’ll be too much drama if too many of the opposition attack them.

“Michael,” warns Broussard, “if you bugger this up and get hurt, I’ll come down there and finish you off myself. Am I being clear?”

“Clear, Chief,” answers Michael. He reminds Broussard again about the Battle of Agincourt, in which the opposition’s number did not pose a problem.

20:13 GMT

Wednesday June 3, 2026

Gwilliam’s Quay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

Gwilliam calls Patrick, who is currently visiting their factory in Ireland. “Ye should know that two fellas caused a scene at my place in Letterkenny.”

“What kind of scene?” asks Patrick.

“A fella broke one of my dealers’ nose and chipped his front tooth. I’ve already sent the stills from the CCTV cameras to my contact at the Garda, but he can’t identify them. He also said that the Garda ERU had deployed that day, but he doesn’t know for what operation. Any suggestions?” asks Gwilliam.

“What did the fella want?”

“He said he wanted to speak to us.”

Patrick thinks for a moment before answering. “I think the Garda are desperate and they’re just trying to provoke us. Send their pictures to all yer bouncers and let them in so the boys can have fun with them if they ever show up again. And send me their pictures as well.”

“Aye,” answers Gwilliam.

Gwilliam sends the pictures by e-mail to Patrick, who then forwards them to his contacts at all the UK territorial police forces. As an afterthought, Patrick also forwards the pictures to his contact in the British Army.

Unexpectedly, Patrick’s contact in the British Army replies to his e-mail only a couple of minutes later. What’s written in the response makes Patrick’s jaw drop! He immediately sends a text to all senior members who are in Ireland to meet with him at the Gwilliam’s Bay at once.

23:13 GMT

Wednesday June 3, 2026

Gwilliam’s Shipquay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

At first, Michael and Sarah think that the two huge bouncers are going to refuse them entrance, but this turns out to be not the case and they enter without much trouble. However, the bouncers give them piercing stares on their way in, which both Michael and Sarah notice. The night club is not as full as the one at Letterkenny so they easily find a lounge chair. As before, they order a Guinness and discreetly observe their surroundings. They’re quickly offered ecstasy by one of the club’s dealers and they reject it. They watch the dealer go back to his table, occupied by other dealers. There are three dealers at the table, including the one they just met.

Michael and Sarah don’t waste time. They stand up and Michael goes to the dealers’ table while Sarah watches his back from near a pillar. A man in an unbuttoned shirt sees her and starts to come over. Sarah flashes him a ‘fuck off!’ look. He’s taken aback by Sarah’s deadly look and immediately returns to his seat, tail between his legs.

“Tell your suppliers to meet me at Gwilliam’s Bay at one o’clock tonight,” orders Michael.

The dealers only stare at him.

“Who the fuck are ye?” asks the dealer who’d offered them ecstasy.

“Fuck off and just do what I say!” orders Michael.

“Ye fuck off!” says the one nearest him.

Michael pours his Guinness on the man’s head, which makes him stand up fast. It turns out he’s much taller and bigger than Michael, and thoroughly pissed off.

“Tell your suppliers I’ll be at Gwilliam’s Bay at one o’clock tonight,” says Michael, calmly.

Michael then walks towards the back door. He knows they won’t dare make a scene inside Gwilliam’s, but Sarah still must keep watch, just in case. In front of him, Michael sees Sarah wipe her eyebrow, which is a signal that confirms he’s not being followed. A few seconds after Michael passes Sarah, she can hear his voice from the receiver in her ear.

“Sierra, this is Mike in position.”

“Copy,” says Sarah.

Sarah then goes toward the exit with Michael covering her. They both leave the club. Michael turns left and Sarah goes right, flanking the door.

“Zero, this is Mike and we’re in position,” reports Michael.

“Zero roger,” answers Broussard, sounding tense. Final responsibility for this mission lies with him, but rests now on Michael and Sarah, who are on their own.

“How long do you think until they finally decide to come out?” asks Michael with his signature cheeky grin.

“Probably no more than fifteen seconds,” answers Sarah, smiling while arming her telescoping baton.

Both of them look like they’re gearing up for a few laughs rather than getting ready to beat other men into bloody pulps. Less than fifteen seconds later, three men suddenly burst out of the door. Michael and Sarah wait as they’re sure more will follow. Sure enough, two more men burst out. Michael and Sarah immediately slam their batons repeatedly into the two newcomers, who turn out to be the bouncers from the entrance. Both bouncers drop like flies and the first three men finally realize they’re being ambushed. Two of them attack Sarah and the other attacks Michael. Because the alley is so narrow, it makes no difference whether two people or twenty people attack Sarah, as only two people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder in the confined space. Just like in the Battle of Agincourt, where 6,000 English soldiers beat 36,000 French, the French were unable to deploy their forces simultaneously.

One of the men attacking Sarah equips himself with a telescoping baton and the other pulls out a knife. The first tries to hit Sarah’s head with his baton, but Sarah can easily deflect it with her own. Surprising them both, Sarah goes forward, swinging her baton towards the elbow of the man wielding the knife. Sarah’s swing is on target, making him drop his knife and hold his elbow, his eyes crossed in pain. Without stopping, Sarah swings her baton back towards the first dealer and hits him right in the ear. He falls hard, but isn’t knocked out yet. Still not stopping, Sarah returns her baton to the kneecap of the other man, who also falls to the ground. Sarah then clubs him on top of his head, which knocks him out with blood gushing out of his head. Sarah can now concentrate on the other dealer, who has already risen and is about to attack her again. Before Sarah can hit him once more, Michael hits his head from behind him and knocks him out.

Michael and Sarah have expertly implemented the basic principles of Close Quarters Battle (CQB), which are ‘speed, surprise, and violence of action’. Once the battle starts, the next principle is ‘hit hard, hit fast, and hit often’, as popularized by Admiral William F. Halsey of the US Navy during World War II. The hard, fast, repeated blows from the two special forces operatives have knocked out five of the opposition in under ten seconds. Only Hollywood bullshit would depict special forces operatives fighting hand-to-hand combat for longer than ten seconds. If they can’t floor their opposition in less than that, then it’s time for them to bugger off.

Only one of their opponents is still conscious and he’s moaning in pain from his shattered bones. Michael grabs his hair to look at him. It turns out he’s one of the bouncers from the entrance.

“Tell The Cartel to meet me at Gwilliam’s Bay at one o’clock tonight. Got that?” asks Michael.

The bouncer can only nod, wincing from the pain. Michael and Sarah leave the men lying where they’ve fallen.

“Zero, this is Mike and we’re in the clear,” reports Michael, once they’re away from the alley.

“Zero roger,” answers Broussard, sounding relieved.

“Hey! That last chap you knocked out was mine!” protests Sarah.

“Well, it looked like you needed help,” says Michael, grinning.

“Says who?”

They tease and argue with each other, fun back and forth, during the walk away from the field of battle. After the engagement, both feel more emotionally attached to each other than before.

00:36 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

All senior members of The Cartel are present at the Gwilliam’s Bay. Besides Patrick, there’s Steve Dunbar, Gwilliam O’Donnel, Rory Hanrahan, Carraig ‘Frag’ O’Lenihan, Donald “Tiny” Mullins, and Niall Schroeder. The head of The Cartel’s factory at Swan’s Mill, which is only thirty minutes from Derry, couldn’t attend because there are still problems at the factory. But everyone else is present. The third floor of Gwilliam’s Bay is one of the hideouts of The Cartel’s elite. Gwilliam must ensure Gwilliam’s Bay is free of drugs so PSNI never have reason to raid it. This is why Gwilliam’s Bay has up to ten bouncers at any one time, including the head bouncer, who used to be a professional MMA fighter and trainer.

Patrick starts his briefing. “These two are trying to provoke us. They caused a scene at the Gwilliam’s in Letterkenny yesterday and at Gwilliam’s Shipquay here in Derry a few minutes ago. They have sent a total of four of our dealers and two of Gwilliam’s bouncers to the hospital. The fella said he wants us to meet him here at Gwilliam’s Bay at one o’clock.”

“Ye should’ve picked another place for this meeting!” says Donald ‘Tiny’ Mullins sharply. “Why the fuck did ye pick this place?”

“We only found out about this a few minutes ago, so fuck off!” says Steve firmly.

Tiny shuts up and Patrick continues his briefing. “Our contact in the British Army has somehow managed to identify them. The fella is Major Michael Adrian, OC of B Squadron, SAS and the girl is Sarah Dharmawan, a policewoman from the Indonesian National Police.”

Everyone is surprised by two things. First, that an SAS squadron commander and an Indonesian policewoman are cooperating to find them. And second, how on earth did their British Army contact identify both so fast? They’re still debating the implications of the news when Gwilliam receives a call from his manager.

00:56 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

After executing counter-surveillance measures, Michael and Sarah split up. They plan on meeting inside the Gwilliam’s Bay at 01:00 because there’s a chance the bouncers will recognize them if they go in together. Michael arrives early, so he goes to the bar to order a Guinness. There’s a huge mirror behind the bar facing him so he can see when Sarah arrives. A gorgeous brunette is sitting alone at the bar. She looks stunning and really sexy wearing a black strapless dress. Michael gives her a friendly smile as he sits next to her.

“Not interested!” snaps the pretty girl.

Michael is taken aback as he hasn’t even opened his mouth yet.

“Yeah, right… neither am I,” Michael snorts, “… and I just got out of jail.”

It’s her turn to be taken aback and she looks as if she’s trying not to laugh. “Just got out of jail, eh? So what are ye? A bank robber or something?”

“Bank robber? Good heavens, no,” says Michael in an exaggeratedly posh accent. “I’m a serial killer.”

The girl finally laughs. “And they just let ye out?”

“Of course not,” answers Michael. “I escaped.”

She laughs harder. “Wearing a bespoke suit from Savile Row?”

“I nicked it before coming here,” says Michael, signalling the barman to give her a drink.

“And how will ye pay for this drink?” she asks. The man beside her isn’t good-looking, but he has a powerful aura that piques her interest.

“Actually, I was about to ask you for a loan,” says Michael dryly.

The pretty girl laughs out loud and gives Michael a playful pinch on his waist as he pays for the drinks. Michael is pleased, but then notices from the mirror that Sarah is already sitting at the table behind them.

“Pardon me,” says Michael, giving the girl another friendly smile. He takes his drink to go sit with Sarah.

‘Oh, fuck,’ thinks Michael when he sees Sarah’s expression.

“Enjoying yourself, Michael?” asks Sarah, in a voice as cold as the Guinness in Michael’s hand.

“I was indeed… thank you for asking,” answers Michael. He arranges his face into an innocent expression, though he’s actually terrified of the look Sarah’s giving him right now.

“Were you trying to pick her up?” asks Sarah sharply.

“Why would I want to do that?” asks Michael, still innocently. “I already have you pretending to be my date.”

Sarah’s face hardens. These past couple of days, she has come to feel more emotionally attached to him than before and she’s suddenly identified the strange feeling she’d experienced when Michael had returned the smiles of all those girls. Sarah is fully aware that this is not a real date, but the jealousy is almost overwhelming her.

A waiter comes over. “Would ye like to order a drink, madam?”

“Guinness,” answers Sarah curtly.

“Very good, madam. Anything else for ye, sir?”

“Indeed. How about a new date?” asks Michael, still with a face like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “This one has come over all sulky.”

The waiter then notices Sarah’s pouty lips and almost laughs out loud. “I’m afraid ye’re on yer own on this, sir.”

“I thought so. Thanks anyhow,” says Michael, giving the waiter a friendly smile.

The waiter gives Michael a small bow and leaves, still trying hard not to laugh. Sarah’s a bit calmer, but she’s still annoyed with Michael.

“What were you two talking about?” she asks, still with ice in her voice.

“Oh, the usual. The life of a rupert in The Paras… a few war stories… all the medals I’ve received,” says Michael dryly. “I was about to show off my battle scars when you showed up...”

Sarah laughs out loud and Michael can finally breathe a sigh of relief. They talk about other things and focus on taking in their surroundings.

01:01 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

“They’re already fucking here!” shouts Gwilliam, hanging up his phone.

They all go to the CCTV screens. Niall’s eyes go wide when he sees Sarah, who looks especially gorgeous wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and dark blue jeans.

“Let’s snatch them!” he says excitedly.

“Not now and not here,” says Gwilliam firmly.

Patrick thinks for a moment. They can’t take care of these two while they’re inside the building. However, neither can their actions be tolerated. “I’ll have our contact send more info on them. In the meantime, there are only two of them so here’s what we’re going to do…”

He lays out his plan.

“They defeated five of our fellas in a narrow alley… now let’s see how they handle ten of our bouncers in the open,” says Patrick, smiling sadistically.

03:09 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Bay Road

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

After spending a couple of hours inside with no sign of The Cartel, Michael and Sarah exit the building. They already suspected The Cartel would leave them alone inside Gwilliam’s Bay. Outside, however, they become alert. Michael and Sarah leave the road to walk on the river bank. It’s quite romantic and for a second, Sarah imagines she’s dating Michael. Without thinking, Sarah puts her arm through his. Both feel sparks as muscle touches muscle, but they remain on high alert.

Michael’s smartphone suddenly goes off and he frowns when he sees the name on the screen. He takes the call and Sarah can only hear one side of the conversation.

“Yes?”

“…”

“No, but why are you calling me at this hour?”

“…”

“No… I’m still in… ehm… Manchester.”

“…”

“The squadron will be ‘On The Team’ starting July, remember?”

“…”

“Probably in August after the Fan Dance. Why?”

“…”

“No, not yet.”

“…”

“What for?”

“…”

“Fine.”

“…”

“Right, see you at PATA,” says Michael, hanging up his phone.

Sarah notices Michael’s expression. “Is there something wrong?”

“No,” answers Michael, still with an irritated look on his face.

“Who was it?”

“Just an ex-girlfriend.”

Without being able to control it, red-hot jealousy again rages inside Sarah. “Do they always check up on you like that?” she asks sharply, giving him a hard look.

“Just this one. We broke up a couple of years ago, but she’s been calling me around the clock these past few months.”

“Why?”

Michael shrugs. “Haven’t the foggiest… she probably still finds me irresistible, I guess.”

This time Sarah doesn’t react to Michael’s joke. She keeps silent and pouts.

“Anyhow, you’ve been great these past few days,” says Michael.

Sarah knows that Michael is trying to change the subject so she keeps silent.

“You’re excellent at hand-to-hand combat and you handle yourself very well,” praises Michael again.

Sarah ignores him although she’s actually flattered.

“You could be my backup anytime,” says Michael.

Sarah still ignores him.

Michael finally snorts. “Well then… if you’re going to sulk like that all night then maybe I should’ve picked up that lovely girl at the bar…”

Sarah suddenly grabs Michael’s arm, lifts him up on her shoulders, and slams him unceremoniously to the ground. She expects complaints but Michael laughs out loud instead, making her feel more annoyed.

“What did you do that for?” asks Michael, still laughing.

“That’s for winding me up, you git!” snaps Sarah, red-faced.

Michael laughs louder, making Sarah even more annoyed with him. He can sense that Sarah’s jealous and this makes him happy, as he’s had a crush on her for two years, since long before they met a few months ago. Sarah tries hard to maintain her expression, but finally joins in laughing at how silly this has become.

“Help me up…” says Michael with gleaming eyes and his cheeky grin, thrusting his hand towards her.

Sarah starts to give him her hand… but then withdraws it at the last second.

“Do you really think I’m that stupid?” she snaps, pouting again.

Michael laughs even harder. Sarah has guessed correctly that he was going to pull her down to the ground as well. Still laughing, Michael tries to get up by himself when Rudy’s voice is suddenly heard through their receiver inside their ear.

“This is One. Cut that fucking shite out! Ye have ten players coming at ye from two directions! I repeat, ye have ten players coming at ye from two directions!” says Rudy, observing them from across the river.

“Roger that,” says Michael.

“Copy,” says Sarah.

They make like they’re still joking around to prevent the opposition from becoming suspicious. While bantering, they glance about and spot six men walking fast towards them from behind and four from Bay Road to their right. They keep acting like nothing’s happening, joking around as if they’re unaware they’re about to be ambushed from two flanks.

“All players are armed with batons!” says Rudy, tensely. “Those behind ye are closing fast… ten metres!”

“We’ll counterattack the ones behind us,” says Michael. “Ready?”

“Let’s do it,” answers Sarah.

“Standby… Standby…” says Michael.

“Five metres!” shouts Rudy.

“Go!” orders Michael.

The only way to counter an ambush is to counterattack as violently as possible. They turn around, arm their telescoping batons, and attack the six men behind them, screaming at the top of their lungs. Four men are immediately knocked out in the flurry of swirling sticks and the remaining two panic and run away.

Now they only have to concentrate on the four men coming from the direction of Bay Road. One aims a baton at Sarah’s head, but Sarah can easily evade it. The man then gets a mouthful of Sarah’s baton, which sends most of his front teeth flying and his body crashing bloodily to the ground. Sarah’s about to face the other man when she suddenly sees something coming towards her midsection.

An extremely powerful blow from a steel baton lands on her stomach!

03:17 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

River Foyle

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

Everyone across the River Foyle saw what just happened.

“Oh, fuck!” shouts Rudy. He shouts an order to one of his sniper teams. “Five-Oscar, standby to fire on my command!”

“Roger that,” answers the sniper, extremely tense as he struggles to keep his crosshairs on the attacker, his finger on the trigger.

Broussard is on edge because he knows it’s almost impossible for a sniper to hit a moving target from 600 metres, especially when friendlies are in the immediate area. One stray shot and Sarah could get hit!

03:17 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

River Foyle

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

Sarah barely had time to clench her abdominal muscles before the steel baton hit her stomach. To everyone’s surprise, the baton bounces off Sarah’s stomach and flies out from her attacker’s hands. The attacker looks momentarily surprised before his MMA training kicks in and he then throws his body towards Sarah, who’s still reeling from the powerful blow to her stomach. The hard slam to her body knocks her baton out of her hand and they both enter the river bank with Sarah underneath him. Sarah gasps when her body hits the freezing waters of the River Foyle. The river bank is knee-deep and her opponent starts strangling Sarah with both hands and submerging her head, trying to drown her.

03:18 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

“Now she’s dead,” says Patrick with a satisfied smirk, watching what’s happening through his binoculars.

Everyone else smirks with him except Niall, who’s frowning because he wanted to torture the Indonesian policewoman instead of just killing her. They carry on watching the fight between Sarah and their head bouncer, who’s just about to drown her.

03:18 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

River Foyle

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

After the initial shock, Sarah’s training kicks in. She gives her opponent a hard kick to his groin and he suddenly lets go of her neck. She immediately follows up with another kick to his chest. Her opponent staggers back and Sarah easily gets up. To her opponent’s surprise, Sarah throws herself onto him, pushing them both towards the middle of the river.

The two wrestle underneath the cold, dark waters of the River Foyle. Every time her opponent tries to swim up to breathe, Sarah pulls him back under. Sarah can feel her opponent starting to panic! Beneath the pitch-black, terrifying waters, Sarah calmly manoeuvres into a position behind her attacker and places him in a choke hold, which knocks him out within seconds.

Once he’s out for the count, Sarah swims up to catch her breath. After a few seconds sucking in gulps of needed air, she tows her unconscious opponent towards the river bank. She doesn’t want him to drown, but she does take the opportunity to give him a hard stomp on his arm with her boot. A sickening crack is heard, which is both his ulna and radius bones breaking and jolting out of his arm. Sarah looks toward Michael, who’s just standing there, watching her with a wide smile. His two opponents are on the ground, bleeding and with broken bones all over their bodies.

“All right, Sarah?”

“I’m all right,” says Sarah, still panting.

“Who taught you how to fight in the water like that?” asks Michael, very much impressed with her.

“My dad. He was once the CO of Denjaka.”

“That’s the equivalent to the SBS, right?”

“Indeed. How about you?” asks Sarah. “What do they teach you in the SAS?”

“They taught us a mixture of MMA and street fighting,” explains Michael. The SAS call it jap-slapping, but Michael is afraid Sarah would be offended if he said that.

Sarah picks up and secures her telescoping baton while Michael checks the men around them. Both Michael and Sarah are disappointed that not even one of the floored men is a core member of The Cartel.

“Zero, this is Mike and we’re in the clear,” reports Michael through his transmitter.

“We can see that, you dickhead!” shouts Broussard, barely in control of himself. “You two get your fucking arses back to the hotel for the fucking debrief! Zero out!”

Michael and Sarah are stunned and their eardrums ring. They’ve never heard Broussard this angry before.

“Well… it seems that our gallant chief is bloody pleased with what we have accomplished,” comments Michael dryly.

Sarah laughs. Michael takes off his suit and wraps it around Sarah’s shoulders. Strange as it may seem, this event has made the relationship between them even closer.

03:23 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

“Jesus fucking Christ!” says Gwilliam, his mouth open in awe.

They can see the fight clearly through their binoculars. The senior members of The Cartel can’t help but be impressed by Michael and Sarah’s skill in unarmed combat.

“What is she… a fucking Navy SEAL?” asks Carraig incredulously to Rory, whose jaw is still open though the fight is over.

Patrick can only shake his head in amazement. He didn’t expect them to get away with nary even a scratch. He makes a mental note to have the two bouncers who ran away taught a lesson. Steve is the least impressed because he knows they fought ten men with more brawn than brains. If Patrick had deployed their core members, who are mostly ex-army, the results would’ve surely been different. However, Steve is impressed with the policewoman. He also thought that she was finished when her head was dunked into the water by their head bouncer. But she easily managed to escape and ended up enticing an ex-MMA fighter to a fight in even deeper waters. Only Navy SEALs and Swimmer Canoeists of the SBS are comfortable fighting in the water like that. Steve imagines how challenging and arousing it would be to fight the beautiful policewoman. Preferably while she’s naked.

“Let me out and I’ll take them down,” says Tiny to Patrick.

Niall snorts loudly. “They’ll probably take ye down, Tiny.”

Tiny’s offended. He looks like he’s gearing up to punch Niall in the face, but withdraws when he sees Steve flashing him a stern look.

“Negative,” says Patrick. “They’re just trying to provoke us so we’ll let them have this round. After a month or so, ye can lead the team to slot them. In the meantime, let’s try to gather more intel on them.”

“Slot them? Why not snatch them and let me have fun with them?” asks Niall, disappointed.

Carraig shakes his head. “The fella’s SAS. They’re professionals and they’ll understand if we kill him in a firefight, but not if we intentionally snatch and torture him to death. Let’s not give those SAS fellas any more incentives to hunt us down.”

“How about if we snatch the girl and give her to Niall instead of just slotting her?” suggests Rory. “That way we can also send a message to the INP not to mess with us.”

Niall looks excited at the idea.

“Ye can snatch her if possible,” says Patrick to Tiny, “but I don’t want ye to take any unnecessary risks. If she looks like too much trouble, just shoot her fucking head off.”

“I can ensure a snatch if we bring longs,” says Tiny.

“Negative. Just bring the shorts. The longs are for defensive purposes only. Go and draft me a plan, but I suggest ye take at least twenty of our core members for the hit. Take the fellas from Swan’s Mill instead of Liverpool,” orders Patrick.

The Irish Drug Cartel has two drug factories in England, one in the Republic of Ireland, and the largest of them all in Indonesia. The factory at Swan’s Mill is still having problems so they currently don’t need that many people there. It usually only takes three core members to conduct a snatch, but this time they’ll have to deploy more men after seeing how those two fought.

04:01 GMT

Thursday June 3, 2026

City Hotel – Derry

Derry, County Derry, Northern Ireland

Once they enter the meeting room they’d rented at the hotel, Broussard chews on Michael. “What the fuck do you think you were doing? You were supposed to call for backup once you were in contact, you arsehole!”

“We were always in control and we were never in the shite, Chief,” answers Michael.

“They could’ve brought guns!”

“That’s why we have snipers.”

“And I thought I told you to take them down, not cripple them!”

“Like I said, Chief, they’re free to sue us,” says Michael with his cheeky grin. The others, out of sight of Broussard, wryly smile.

Sarah can’t believe Broussard’s face could go even redder.

“And you!” he shouts towards Sarah. “That chap was already unconscious! You didn’t have to break his fucking arm, you know!”

“I… ehm… stepped on his arm by accident, Chief,” says Sarah, trying to give her commander an innocent look.

Her teammates start giggling and Broussard really blows his top. “This is not a fucking joke! I’m not taking any more risks and aborting this fucking operation! Liverpool is cancelled!”

“But Chief, I’ve already coordinated with the North West CT Unit for tomorrow,” says Arthur.

“Call it off! Liz and Matt will stay in Ireland to handle any fallout from this bone operation and the rest of us will head back to Manchester at noon!” orders Broussard, still fuming as he leaves the meeting room.

After Broussard slams the door behind him, shaking the pictures on the walls, Rudy asks Sarah. “Are ye all right?”

“Of course, Rudy,” answers Sarah. “Why do you ask?”

“During the scuffle I saw ye get hit by a baton,” says Rudy, frowning.

“She got hit by a baton?” asks Michael, giving Sarah a concerned look.

“Aye, she got hit in the stomach. I almost gave an order to one of my snipers to shoot the fella when she went underwater,” says Rudy.

“I guess my abs could take it then,” says Sarah, giving them a wink and a smile.

Every eye in the room looks towards Sarah’s stomach and they all try to imagine how hard her abdominal muscles must be to take a powerful blow from a steel baton like that.

15:10 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

That afternoon, while Tiny and the other senior members plan for the snatch/assassination bid, their British Army contact sends them Michael’s data, including his date of birth, his address in Belfast, his family, his career in the British Army, the address of his flat in Hereford, and even the vehicle registration number of Michael’s Range Rover and his smartphone number. Their contact told them that Michael is currently seconded to Interpol and has rented a flat at the 3Towers Apartment while in Manchester.

Regarding Sarah, their contact says she has an older brother named Anthony Dharmawan, who’s one of the detachment commanders from Satuan Bravo-90, the CT unit of the Indonesian Air Force. His whole unit was once trained by Michael and B Squadron at Credenhill around two years ago. Sarah has a little sister, but their contact doesn’t know her name. Their contact only knows that Sarah is a policewoman from the INP and lives in Jakarta, Indonesia but doesn’t know what unit she belongs to. Although the information is thin, Patrick is amazed and immensely proud of his British Army contact for obtaining so much information so quickly.

The senior members of The Cartel deduce that Sarah is assigned to Interpol to investigate the whereabouts of their factory in Indonesia. Of all the information they have so far, Michael’s smartphone number is the most useful, as they can use a special application to trace his whereabouts through his smartphone. Doing just this, they soon see that Michael has already returned to Manchester.

Rory contacts Richard in Indonesia and asks him to find out about Sarah through their contact at POLDA Metro Jaya, the territorial police force for the Greater Jakarta Area. Rory also tries googling Sarah’s name, but it turns out lots of Indonesian women have the same name. He frowns as he checks them one by one.

16:32 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Interpol Manchester

Central Park, Manchester, England

The team is now gathered in the meeting room. Liz and Matt, who are still in Ireland, report via video conference that all of the Gwilliam’s bouncers are in the hospital, including the two that ran from the scene. In fact, the two who ran away are in worse condition than those beaten up by Michael and Sarah. As was predicted, none of the bouncers are naming their attackers.

Broussard reminds everyone that The Cartel will surely try to enact revenge. “All of you should remember your tradecraft and always employ counter-surveillance measures. Sarah, I urge you to carry more ammunition for your main sidearm and bring a backup.”

This sounds like a suggestion, but Sarah knows it’s an order. This is the third time someone has urged her to carry more ammo. She now must find out how to get her hands on more magazines for her HK P2000.

Michael presents the developments of the investigation by the Special Investigation Branch, Royal Military Police, who are still investigating the missing PE4s. As usual, Michael’s passionate presentation style makes him look clownish and Sarah still can’t imagine him as a squadron commander leading the finest special forces operatives in the world. It turns out the Special Investigation Branch has no suspects yet, as everyone in the army training area has easy access to the PE4. The investigators have had a difficult time investigating and everyone in the army training area has been uncooperative with them.

After work that day, as is now their habit, Michael takes Sarah for dinner. They go to the Nectar Bistro restaurant on Barlow Moor Road where they’re welcomed by the friendly owner. In Arabic, Michael orders Moussakah for an appetizer and Dijaj Maheshi for the main course. Michael and the restaurant owner are surprised when Sarah also orders in Arabic. She orders Fattoush to start and Lahem Meshwi for her main. Michael is sheepish. He wanted to show off his skill in Arabic, but it turns out that Sarah’s Arabic is far more fluent than his own.

“You speak Arabic very well,” says Sarah after the owner left.

“Actually, British Army doctrine dictates that before we deploy to another country, we have to be somewhat proficient in the local language,” says Michael, still sheepishly.

“So you’ve been deployed to the Middle-East?” asks Sarah with a raised eyebrow.

Michael only smiles at her and he’s glad Sarah doesn’t pursue it. Sarah isn’t offended that Michael didn’t answer her question, but she suddenly has an idea.

“Michael, most of The Cartel members are ex-army, right?”

“Indeed. So?”

“Is it possible they could have learned Indonesian before they deployed to Indonesia?” asks Sarah.

Michael eyes light up. “That’s absolutely brilliant, Sarah! Why don’t you call Paul and ask him to investigate any significant increases in people learning Bahasa these past few years?”

While they wait for their starters to arrive, Sarah calls Paul to tell him her idea. Paul also praises her thinking and will immediately follow up on it. If The Cartel really did study Bahasa Indonesia before they deployed, the team can interrogate their teacher. And who knows, maybe their teacher has some information on them. Michael and Sarah’s food arrives and they sit back to enjoy their dinner.

19:09 GMT

Thursday June 4, 2026

Gwilliam’s Bay

Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland

From Indonesia, Richard reports that their connection at POLDA Metro Jaya doesn’t know anyone named Sarah Dharmawan and he doesn’t recognize her photo. But there are rumours of a stunningly beautiful French woman working at the Densus-88 Building. Everyone at POLDA Metro Jaya thinks she’s one of the foreign instructors who train the policewomen of Densus, most likely from France. Like everyone from Densus, she always wears a balaclava outside the Densus-88 Building, so their contact cannot confirm whether this is Sarah or not. Rory concentrates on finding her on Facebook and after a couple of hours, he finally finds Sarah’s account and shows it to his associates. Unfortunately, her account only displays Sarah’s portfolio as a model. There’s absolutely no personal information or any indication that she’s anything but a model.

“I guess her legend is as a model then. This confirms that she was from Densus-88 before Interpol, most likely from their Intelligence Sub-detachment. With hand-to-hand combat skills like that, she probably has experience in their Strike Force also,” says Rory.

“Any word yet from our contacts in the GMP?” asks Patrick.

Rory shakes his head. “They always deliver, but it takes time. It’s powerful we have this much intel already.”

Patrick smiles. The other senior members can see that their boss is fiercely proud of their British Army contact, who has quickly provided them with so much to go on.

They keep admiring Sarah’s photos in her Facebook account. Niall is excited because his next victim is beautiful and sexy. Some photos show Sarah in a sports bra and gym shorts, displaying her athletic body. Niall really likes athletic girls because they can survive much longer than those who never work out. His latest female victim in Jakarta, although she was quite pretty, unfortunately died too soon. Niall only tortured her for a couple of hours before she fainted, never to regain consciousness. That was the second time he had tortured and killed an Indonesian girl but unfortunately, neither was satisfying. The first Indonesian girl he’d tortured died in the first hour because she was much too thin. He’s tortured many women but Niall enjoyed torturing and killing Karen the most because she was in better physical shape than the others. She lasted over four hours! With a body as fit as Sarah’s, Niall imagines that she could survive for more than ten hours, even with her guts slashed to bits. Niall can’t wait to hear the Indonesian policewoman scream when he disembowels her.

That night, Rory finally receives word from their contact at the GMP that Sarah is assigned to the Interpol Incident Response Team under the leadership of Christopher Broussard. The Interpol team is a tight-knit team, meaning that they rarely socialize with the GMP. However, Sarah is well known. Besides being beautiful, she’s also very nice. Their contact confirms that Sarah is a policewoman from Indonesia and she once said that she was a traffic constable before being transferred to Interpol. Like the other team members of the Interpol team, Sarah won’t give them her smartphone number. She hangs out almost every night with one of her teammates, Michael. Their contact doesn’t know whether they are a couple or not, but they always act professionally at work.

“I’ll have at least twenty blokes from Swan’s Mill sent to our HQ. We’ll slot the SAS fella on the spot and snatch or slot the girl during one of their dates,” says Patrick. “Tiny, ye’re in overall command of this operation.”

“I would like to go too if ye don’t mind,” says Steve.

“What the fuck for?” asks Tiny angrily.

“Hey, the girl is a handful and ye might need some help in controlling her during the snatch,” says Steve, grinning.

“Ye can go as Tiny’s 2 i/c,” says Patrick.

Tiny looks angry while Steve only shrugs. Steve doesn’t mind Tiny being in command of the operation as Steve’s role in The Cartel is administration and accounting. He wants to be involved in this operation so he can meet Sarah. If they manage to snatch her, Steve wants to challenge her in hand-to-hand combat and then rape her a few times before turning her over to Niall.

Patrick calls his factory head at Swan’s Mill to explain his plan. The factory head can send twenty-two men to England under the command of Seamus Fitzgerald and Declan Mulcahy. Patrick knows Seamus and Declan because they were both former Sergeants in the Royal Irish Regiment and they’re both extremely reliable.

Once the men arrive at their HQ in England, they spend the next month planning and training. Pistol training, combat communication, and combat tactics, including close quarters combat. The training is led by Tiny, who was once a Staff Sergeant in the Army Ranger Wing. Although all of them have served in the infantry, they rarely practice with a pistol. Unfortunately, they cannot practice shooting with live ammo at their HQ and can only practice dry-firing their pistol. Tiny knows that this can’t replace live fire exercises, but it’s better than nothing. Besides small arms training, all the men are given refreshment training in hand-to-hand combat.

13:32 GMT

Tuesday, June 30, 2026

Interpol Manchester

Central Park, Manchester, England

A few weeks later, Paul and Arthur call everyone into the meeting room. Everyone can attend except Broussard.

“I’ve some canny news and some bad news about the new investigation angle Sarah brought up about a month ago,” says Paul with his Geordie accent.

Paul tells them that the only institution in the UK teaching Bahasa Indonesia is the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, which also offers language courses to corporate clients. A few years earlier, a company asked for intensive Bahasa Indonesia lessons for almost a hundred people. According to Paul’s investigation, the company turned out to be bogus and they paid the hefty price tag in cash. Paul found the name of the person who taught them, a young lady from Bandung, West Java, called Rini Kusumo, who at the time was a SOAS post-grad student. Paul shows them photos of Rini from her Facebook account. She’s attractive, but thin. Paul nods to Arthur, who takes over the presentation.

“During Niall Schroeder’s reign of terror in London, one of his victims was Rini. She was disembowelled with her intestines slashed at her flat in London,” says Arthur, showing them photos from the crime scene.

Rini’s arms and legs are tied to her bed and she’s wearing only her bra and panties. She was disembowelled and her intestines were shredded. Her eyes are open and her mouth full of blood. Sarah can’t help but wince on seeing the photos. Arthur shows them other photos from the crime scene, including pictures of bags of pills.

Arthur continues. “We found a considerable quantity of MDMA in her apartment. At that time, we concluded that Rini was one of The Cartel’s dealers who had angered them for some reason, although we had no evidence to support that besides the MDMA found in her apartment. The fact that she was Indonesian seemed irrelevant at that time because their dealers come from various nationalities. Now it seems like Niall planted the MDMA to conceal the fact that The Cartel has something set up in Indonesia. Scotland Yard will continue investigating this case from that angle, but I don’t think we will find anything new.”

“So we’re back to square-one?” asks Sarah, disappointed.

“Indeed, Sarah, but it was brilliant nonetheless. We would never have come up with the language angle,” says Arthur. “And if it’s any consolation, you’ve also managed to clear Rini’s name. Her parents were utterly devastated when we told them about the drugs found in her apartment and her suspected link to The Cartel. At least now we can tell her parents that the drugs were planted by The Cartel to cover up their operation.”

Sarah nods. At least Rini’s parents will be somewhat relieved to know their daughter was not involved in the drug trade and her good name can be rehabilitated. The team discuss other angles they might have missed until Sarah receives an e-mail from NCB Indonesia.

Sarah forwards the horrid crime scene photos to her teammates. “A known MDMA player was found murdered in his home in South Jakarta. He was beaten to death with a wooden board with some nails in it. A prostitute was also found dead beside him, disembowelled with her intestines slashed.”

“Niall’s in Indonesia!” exclaims Liz.

Sarah shakes her head in frustration. “This happened about two months ago. Niall could be anywhere by now.”

“This means that The Cartel has already taken over production of MDMA from another player in Indonesia. Their next step is to take over the supply chain if they haven’t done so already and then take over other players,” says James. “After that, I’m afraid The Cartel will start narcoterrorism in Indonesia.”

“Any suggestions on what I can do from here?” asks Sarah, frowning. Although the past month has been interesting, she still hasn’t enjoyed relying on other people to do her job.

Paul suggests the INP keep an eye on the local MDMA players. One day, The Cartel will ask each of them to join up. If they refuse, The Cartel will eliminate them.

After dinner that day, Michael tells Sarah that starting next July, he must spend more time in Credenhill because his squadron is on standby for the next six months. Sarah is disappointed upon hearing the news and she doesn’t even try to conceal her feelings, which makes Michael happy because it shows that Sarah has strong feelings for him.

Although they hang out every day, they’re still not a couple and Sarah is frustrated that Michael hasn’t made his move yet. Sarah has been really interested in Michael ever since Ireland. After thinking about it, Sarah realizes that this is the first time she’s ever hoped that someone would make a move and she doesn’t like worrying that Michael might not be interested in her. She’s even spoken about this with her mum, telling her she’d found someone interesting in England, but they weren’t a couple because he hadn’t made his move yet. Her mum suggested that if Sarah were really that interested in him, she could make a move on him. Sarah told her that she is much too Asian to do something like that and her mum only laughed.

Sarah’s mum is right. Michael has idolized Sarah for a long time, but he’s taking things slowly as he doesn’t want to risk losing her by going too fast.

05:30 WIB (GMT+7)

Friday July 24, 2026

PT. Horizon Turbines and Propulsions

Citeureup, Bogor, West Java

A container lorry has just left PT. Horizon Turbines and Propulsions, a turbine production manufacturer. The driver is tasked to deliver containers filled with turbines to the Kalibaru Port. The driver’s paid below minimum wage by his company, which is a violation of Indonesian labour laws. He doesn’t mind, though, because his side job generates much, much more money than his monthly wages. It’s too bad that his side job only occurs every other month or so, but he’s done it routinely for the past two years. The money from his side job enables him to buy a large house and with it, he can support his two wives and five kids comfortably.

Today, he’s excited because last night he received a text from the foreigner who’d given him the side job. As usual, the driver was asked to stop by the factory to smuggle goods into the container headed for the Republic of Ireland. The factory is located nearby so the driver doesn’t have to detour far from his itinerary. The driver briefly notices that the goods are much more plentiful than usual. He doesn’t know that besides smuggling MDMA, they’re now also smuggling raw materials for their factory in the Republic of Ireland. At the Kalibaru Port in North Jakarta, a port authority senior officer on The Cartel’s payroll ensures that the container is loaded onto the ship without incident. The ship has an unusual name and the driver doesn’t know how to pronounce it. It makes no difference to him anyway, as long as they keep putting money in his bank account.

After finishing his job, the driver goes to his bank to withdraw the tens of millions of rupiah already transferred to his account. After getting home, he splits the money with his two wives and many kids, who’ve been nagging him all month for money for this and that.

He doesn’t give all the money to his family, of course. He saves some for himself to have fun in Central Jakarta.

19:17 GMT

Monday July 27, 2026

Old Trafford Stadium

Old Trafford, Manchester, England

Rory has studied Michael’s movements through their sophisticated application. Once he exits the GMP HQ, he always executes counter-surveillance drills before having dinner at a restaurant. Tonight, The Cartel will execute their plan and they are now waiting at the FRV (final rendezvous) at the Old Trafford Stadium, southwest of Manchester.

“Heads up, the target is moving. Ye’re on, Tiny,” says Rory through his smartphone.

“Aye, we’re on our way,” answers Tiny, giving a signal to his men to deploy.

Steve and seven men are responsible for assassinating Michael and the snatching/assassination of Sarah. Tiny will guard the rear of the restaurant while Seamus and Declan guard the front to prevent them from escaping. As Steve enters the restaurant, two men will enter from the back door to secure the kitchen so Steve and his men can escape the crime scene that way. If there’s too much drama at the restaurant, Tiny, Seamus, and Declan can send in reinforcements from the front and rear. This tactic is called a ‘hammer and anvil tactic’ and they will use their personal smartphones to communicate with each other. Their strike force is twenty-four men strong; twenty-two men from Swan’s Mill plus Tiny and Steve. This time, The Cartel is leaving no chance for their targets to get away.

There are a total of thirty men in six cars. The six drivers, who came from HQ, are not allowed to join in the fight and were drilled by Rory on how to exfiltrate from the crime scene. After the assassination/snatch, Rory needs them to conduct counter-surveillance measures before heading towards their factory at Liverpool. If they manage to snatch Sarah, they’ll drop her off in Liverpool then head back to HQ. They’ll return to Swan’s Mill once the storm they’ve caused has died down. Rory has also determined the ERV (emergency rendezvous) for this operation, near the Audenshaw Reservoir, southeast of Manchester.

Patrick questions why his brother and not Tiny is the one leading their strike force. He nods in agreement when Tiny reminded him that he’s much more conspicuous than Steve.

20:13 GMT

Monday July 27, 2026

Carluccio’s

Spinningfields, Manchester, England

Michael and Sarah are having dinner at Carluccio’s, near the River Irwell. The Italian restaurant is shaped in a half-circle and they’re sitting in the middle of the dining area. The restaurant is quite busy and filled with office workers.

It turns out that the next day Michael has to return to Credenhill for a couple of days, so Sarah tries to enjoy this date as much as possible. Michael himself can’t stop looking at Sarah, who looks lovely in a pink jumper and light blue jeans. They’re talking while waiting for their food to arrive when Sarah notices a woman rise from her chair and walk towards the front door. Her Gucci bag is lovely and Sarah wants to buy the same one. While Sarah’s observing the woman exit the restaurant, a group of men enter. The waiter directs them towards the middle of the room, but they insist on sitting on one side of the restaurant.

“Heads up! There are four men sitting next to the window, about twenty-five metres behind you. I think they’re packing heat,” says Sarah, keeping her eyes towards Michael’s.

People who carry concealed weapons tend to behave differently than normal people. They’re always jittery and unconsciously keep touching their weapons as if to assure themselves the weapons are still there. It’s different for Michael and Sarah because they’re accustomed to carrying concealed weapons. Michael wants to know what they look like, but he’s too professional to turn around.

“Could you describe them for me?” asks Michael. He’s smiling like a man enjoying small talk with his date.

“I don’t recognize any of them from the files. All of them are wearing cheap clothes, jeans. One has red hair,” says Sarah, also pretending to smile at him.

“Well, let’s not jump to conclusions, but please keep your peripheral vision on them,” suggests Michael.

“Of course,” says Sarah. Her left hand is on her chin, but her right hand is hidden.

Their drinks arrive, but they only sip them. A few seconds later, four more men arrive wearing similar clothes and ask for the waiter to sit them on the opposite side of the restaurant.

Michael recognizes one of them. “Steve Dunbar just came in with three others. They’re sitting at Red-3.”

“What the devil are you talking about?” asks Sarah, a smile still on her face.

Michael forgot that Sarah is not one of his troopers. He explains what he meant. “They’re sitting behind you next to the window. They’re watching us from about twenty-five metres away. It seems like we’re about to be ambushed from both flanks. I suggest you make ready your sidearm, but keep it out of sight.”

“I’ve already done that,” says Sarah, her heart is staring to race.

“Very good. Now if, and only if, they come for us, we will both stand, turn around, and counterattack the four X-Rays in our tactical area of responsibility. We will then try to find an exit through the kitchen. We will shoot-to-kill, is that clear?”

“Copy,” answers Sarah. “The one with red hair has just told the waiter to bugger off and is taking out his smartphone.”

“Indeed. It looks like Steve is calling him and they might be coordinating their moves. Okay, all four of them are starting to get up,” says Michael.

“So are the ones I’m seeing. They’re regrouping and slowly coming towards us in a close diamond formation on my left aisle,” says Sarah. She tenses up and her heart is beating fast. Taking out four armed men in close quarters is absolutely no walk in the park!

“Same as what I see, on my left aisle,” says Michael. He then gives Sarah some orders in a calm and assertive tone of voice. “On my signal, we will both stand and turn around to the right. The person at the back, Steve Dunbar, will be the assassin. He’ll be hiding the gun behind the person in front. Steve is the immediate threat so you should take him out as soon as possible.”

Michael’s command voice calms her down. Sarah normally doesn’t like being under the command of someone she hasn’t trained with, but she’s comfortable with Michael leading her through this ambush.

Michael continues. “They’re now ten metres away. Standby for my signal… Standby… Standby… Go!”

Sarah jumps up, turns around, and goes forward, screaming at the top of her lungs! She can hear Michael doing the exact same thing. SCAN. As if in super-slow motion, Sarah sees four surprised, panicking men in front of her starting to reach for their pistols, while Steve, whose pistol is already drawn but hidden from view, pushes the man in front of him to get his sights on Sarah. ACQUIRE. Sarah aims towards Steve’s centre mass. SHOOT. SHOOT. Sarah shoots him twice in rapid succession. ACQUIRE. Sarah makes sure both of her shots hit her target and sees Steve fall backwards before he’s able to discharge his weapon. SCAN. Sarah sees the other three starting to react and she keeps moving forward, which really panics them. The one on the far right manages to draw his pistol. He’s now the immediate threat. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SCAN. Sarah sees one of them is so panicky that he accidentally drops his pistol while the other is having trouble drawing his pistol from his holster. That man’s now the immediate threat. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SCAN. The last man is bending down, trying to reach for his pistol. Sarah aims for his head, now at point-blank range. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SCAN. Her ears are ringing as she changes magazines, all the time scanning around for more people trying to ambush them.

Everything is over in seven seconds, from the time Sarah rose from her chair to the time she finished changing magazines.

“Four Tangos down!” shouts Sarah.

“Four X-Rays down!” shouts Michael.

Sarah glances towards Michael and sees that he too managed to take all four of his attackers down, all shot in the head. Michael and Sarah calmly but quickly move towards the kitchen door. Sarah glances toward the dining area and sees the patrons starting to panic. Some of them throw themselves on the floor, but most try to escape through the front door. A group of men seem intent on entering the restaurant, but they are held up by patrons trying desperately to exit.

“Take point, I’ll cover you,” orders Michael, keeping an eye on the men held up at the front door.

“Copy,” answers Sarah.

Sarah carefully opens the kitchen door with her pistol in a low ready position. SCAN. Sarah sees two men pointing their pistols towards the kitchen staff. One of them is facing the kitchen door. He instantly recognizes Sarah and starts pointing his pistol towards her. ACQUIRE. SHOOT. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SCAN. The other Tango makes the mistake of turning towards her instead of taking cover. AQUIRE. SHOOT. SHOOT. ACQUIRE. SCAN. Sarah has succeeded in taking two more men down without even one of them able to return fire.

“Two Tangos down!” shouts Sarah. Everyone inside the kitchen is too scared to move. “Everyone! Keep your heads low and bugger off through the front door! Move! Move it!”

Everyone follows her orders except two women who can only crouch down and scream hysterically, both hands covering their ringing ears.

“Move it! Move it!” she orders again, grabbing them by the hair and directing them towards the door to the dining area. She does that while also scanning the area for more hostiles.

Michael does the same to the two women until they both exit the kitchen. The kitchen area is almost as spacious as the dining area. The rear exit is on the left corner and Sarah immediately heads towards it.

“Stand firm, Sarah!” orders Michael. “It’s likely they have people guarding the rear exit.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Let’s barricade ourselves until the GMP arrives. Call Paul and have him call the North West CT Unit. Remind Paul to tell them to watch out for friendlies barricaded inside the stronghold,” suggests Michael, turning off all the lights.

“Copy,” answers Sarah.

The kitchen goes dark except, unfortunately, for light still coming from various appliances. While taking cover behind a heavy counter, Sarah tries to call Paul, but he doesn’t answer his phone. She then contacts Arthur. When he answers, Sarah calmly reports what’s happening to them. Arthur panics, but immediately contacts the commander of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit.

“Cover the rear exit and I’ll cover the front,” orders Michael.

“Copy,” answers Sarah.

Sarah has to think like the opposition so she can anticipate their next move. She also has to keep asking herself ‘what if?’ For example, what if the Tangos manage to overrun Michael? What if her pistol has a stoppage? What if more than four men attack her from the rear exit? What if she runs out of ammo?

Sarah observes the rear exit and sees that the handle is on the left side and the hinges are unseen, which means the door opens outwards. This means that if men trained in CQB attack her from that door, the pointman will have to execute a move called a ‘crisscross’. The pointman will try to secure the whole room from the back of the kitchen to the front while hugging the walls. The second man will have to perform a move called a ‘buttonhook’ in which, upon his entrance, he immediately heads towards the front of the kitchen. She takes a position so she can shoot the first two men who enter from the rear exit. Her position will be a blind spot for the pointman, who will most likely execute a crisscross.

Sarah takes a Glock 17 pistol from one of the Tangos she shot. Using firearms taken from the enemy is not recommended, but Sarah doesn’t have a choice because she only has a total of six bullets left and she doesn’t have a backup pistol. The comments of Michael, Matt, and Broussard on the amount of ammo she carries come back to haunt her, but there’s no use regretting that now.

Sarah checks the Glock for a moment and sees it has sixteen bullets with one still in the chamber. She must rely on Michael to cover the front, just like he has to rely on Sarah to cover the rear. Sarah wants to take another mag from the Tango, but fears she doesn’t have much time.

Sarah’s decision is correct. Suddenly, both the front and back doors of the kitchen fly open at the same time. It looks like the opposition have once again coordinated their move. Sarah sees someone enter from the back door. As she predicted, the Tango performs a crisscross. He’s hesitant entering the dark kitchen so Sarah can easily shoot him twice in his upper waist. The second Tango is stunned and can only freeze at the door when he sees his friend getting shot, which gives Sarah the opportunity to drill him twice in the head.

“Two Tangos down!” shouts Sarah.

“Two X-Rays down!” shouts Michael.

Sarah forces herself to wait for ten seconds to see whether there’ll be more coming in from the back door while listening to the fierce battle raging behind her. After ten seconds, Sarah peeks behind her. She can see two Tangos on the floor with headshots near the front door but there are six Tangos shooting at Michael, who’s shooting towards them from behind a counter with his pistol. Of the six Tangos, three are shooting from the door and the rest have already entered the kitchen, trying to flank Michael from his blind side. The three Tangos don’t realize they’re passing near Sarah’s position.

Once they pass her, Sarah stands up and shoots two of them in the back with two shots each. Instead of dropping to the ground, all three Tangos turn around and point their weapons at her! Sarah immediately throws herself behind some cover, in time to hear four shots. She momentarily sees a couple of golf ball-sized exit wounds in the faces of the two Tangos when their heads are shot at close range from behind them.

“Two X-Rays down… Reload!” shouts Michael.

Sarah must act quickly so she can help Michael. She gets up again and gives the Tango a double-tap to his head, just as he was about to shoot Michael. The Tango is dead before his body reaches the floor and Sarah drops to the ground when more shots are fired from behind her, riddling the tables and appliances all around her with bullets.

“Tango down!” shouts Sarah while moving from her position.

“Four X-Rays from Green-10!” shouts Michael.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” shouts Sarah angrily.

“Four X-Rays coming in from the back-left side of the kitchen!” shouts Michael once again.

Sarah peeks to the back-left, but she doesn’t see anyone. She takes a plate and throws it towards the back-right side of the kitchen. Four Tangos suddenly stand up in the back-left side of the kitchen and shoot their pistols at the sound of the shattering plate. Sarah aims her pistol towards their heads, aware now that some of them are wearing body armour. Sarah’s first two rounds find their target, but only one of her next two rounds does the same. Her next six rounds hit nothing as the two remaining Tangos have thrown themselves to the ground and are now hidden from view. Sarah’s Glock is empty so she throws it away and reverts to her HK P2000, which she remembers still has four bullets plus two in the other mag.

Sarah rushes towards the Tangos before they can react, but there are shots fired from the front door. She empties her pistol that way to keep the shooters down while rushing towards the two remaining Tangos at the back-left side of the kitchen. The Tangos are nowhere to be seen and Sarah doesn’t know where they went. She takes cover, changes mags, then makes her way towards the back of the kitchen. They’re not there either, so she takes a right and slams into one of them who has just finished reloading his revolver. Both panic, but Sarah is faster and shoots the Tango through his chin and left cheek. Sarah’s gun is now empty but the Tango is still alive, screaming at the top of his lungs. Sarah throws away her empty pistol, takes out her knife, and stabs him in the chest.

Reluctantly, Sarah takes the revolver from the Tango, who is still in his death throes. She shoots him twice in the head to ensure he doesn’t get up again. Now she looks for the other Tango and finally sees him towards the front of the kitchen, starting to raise his pistol in Michael’s direction. She rushes forward, shooting blindly. Although the Tango is huge, all her shots have missed. The Tango, who turns out to be Donald ‘Tiny’ Mullins, turns around and points his gun toward Sarah as she runs directly at him. Sarah knows she won’t be fast enough so she throws herself into the air to deliver a flying kick to Tiny’s chest. Tiny manages to squeeze the trigger and a single shot is fired at the same time Sarah’s feet land on his chest.

Sarah’s surprised to bounce right off. At first she thought that Tiny was wearing body armour, but it turns out he’s only wearing a shirt. Sarah was bounced off just by his rock-hard pectoral muscles. Fortunately, Tiny was thrown off balance and he accidentally slams his hand on the corner of a counter, which makes him drop his pistol. Sarah stands up immediately before Tiny can reach his gun and gives him a powerful kick to the chin. Sarah’s kick would’ve knocked out almost anyone, but Tiny doesn’t seem to feel it. She’s worried he might do the same to her so she kicks the pistol out of his reach and grabs a steak knife from a table. Meanwhile, she becomes aware that the firefight at the front of the kitchen has stopped. The enemy must be running out of men.

Tiny steps into a boxing stance as if he’s in a boxing ring. Sarah remembers that he was a boxer and she knows that if he hits her in the head, it’s game over. Tiny starts throwing some jabs, but Sarah keeps evading him. She manages to duck when he throws her a left-straight but he then suddenly moves forward and throws a right-uppercut smack into her solar plexus. Sarah clenches her abs and lets Tiny hit her. Tiny’s punch is so hard that her body is lifted a few inches off the floor! Tiny’s staggers a bit when his fist only bounces off of her, so Sarah takes the chance to move forward and stab the steak knife hard into Tiny’s heart.

Unexpectedly, the thin knife breaks on contact with Tiny’s chest. Without even the time to be surprised by that, Sarah kicks Tiny’s right knee. He falls, but sends her a vicious left-straight towards her stomach. Tiny’s punch is much harder than before because he used his whole body weight to deliver the blow. Sarah staggers back, but Tiny’s fist again seems to bounce off her. Tiny’s not the only one with rock-hard muscles. Sarah recovers her balance and moves forward to kick him in the neck. She connects and he falls on his back.

Sarah then grabs another sharp object nearest to her, which turns out to be a cheap pen from the waiters’ station. She jumps on top of a counter and throws her body on top of Tiny. In the air, Sarah positions the back of the pen in the middle of her abdomen and the tip of the pen towards Tiny’s chest. Just before she lands on top of him, Sarah clenches her abs so that her body weight is focused on the tip of the pen when it punches through Tiny’s chest.

Tiny screams out loud when the pen goes into his chest! He throws Sarah away from him and struggles to pull the pen out. She ignores him for a moment to look around and sees Michael wrestling a couple of Tangos. Michael manages to kick one of them in the chest, which has him falling on his arse towards Sarah, who is only a couple of metres behind him. Sarah reaches for another sharp object, another steak knife, and throws herself onto the Tango, stabbing him in the soft tissue below his right ear. The steak knife slams into where she was aiming. The Tango drops like a sack of potatoes and starts convulsing on the floor. Sarah grabs his hair and begins slamming his head repeatedly until she finally hears his skull crack open and sees blood and grey matter spreading on the floor.

Sarah is on her knees, trying to catch her breath when she glances towards Michael, who has someone in a choke hold. Sarah can identify the choking man as Declan Mulcahy from James’s file and Michael is in the process of breaking his neck. Although the kitchen is dark, Sarah can see the look of utter horror in Declan’s eyes. His eyes are wide open in fear when he looks at Sarah, but they suddenly lose focus at the same time Sarah hears his neck snap. Looking into his eyes, Sarah sees Declan’s soul leave his body, even though she knows she’s only imagining it.

Michael throws Declan’s dead body to the ground and takes another pistol from the floor. After checking it, he gives Declan’s head a double-tap. Michael approaches the other slain or dying Tangos to finish them off with double-taps to the head as well.

A hand suddenly grabs Sarah’s leg! She’s jolted, but then she sees Tiny writhing on the floor behind her. Pink, oxygenized blood is frothing from Tiny’s mouth, which means that his lung is punctured. Sarah steps away from him for a moment to do a 360. There are a couple of Tangos near the front door still writhing around and moaning. Sarah sees Michael go over to them to shut them up with his pistol.

Sarah crouches down to check on the big man. If Sarah can save him, he can tell her the location of their drug factory in Indonesia. It seems unlikely, though, as the pen looks to have also nicked his heart. Tiny seems to know that he’s dying and he looks absolutely terrified. His hand is reaching out towards Sarah, as if he’s trying to grab her hand. There’s nothing Sarah can do for him except take his hand to keep him company when he finally meets the Ángel de la Muerte. Tiny cries when Sarah squeezes his hand and prays ‘Padre Nuestro’ to him. Sarah watches Tiny’s tearful eyes looking back at her. His grasp grows weaker by the second until, once again, Sarah sees someone’s soul leave his body. Tiny’s hand goes limp and his eyes now empty of all expression.

Two shots are fired from behind her! At the same time, Sarah sees Tiny’s right eye and nose suddenly look as though they are sucked into his head. Sarah looks back and sees Michael calmly step away to finish off the others.

Sarah finds Tiny’s pistol. After checking it, she covers Michael as he finishes off the remaining Tangos. In the kitchen area alone, she counts fifteen dead Tangos, and that’s on top of the eight they killed in the dining area. Between them, they’ve managed to kill twenty-three Cartel members including Donald Mullins and Steve Dunbar. Even with adrenaline still pumping, both Michael and Sarah can immediately figure out what went wrong with The Cartel’s ambush. The Cartel attacked them in waves instead of all at once, enabling Michael and Sarah to pick them off one-by-one from concealed positions, even though the opposition had a twelve-to-one advantage. Also, like infantrymen everywhere, they were lousy pistol shooters. The darkened kitchen didn’t help their aim either.

After making sure all Tangos have at least two bullets in their heads, Sarah hears Michael mumble to himself. “Stronghold secured.”

Through their ringing ears, they finally hear the sirens of the GMP.

“Do you know anyone from the North West CT Unit?” asks Sarah. Her voice is calm although her heart is still racing and adrenaline is still surging through her body.

“Negative,” answers Michael.

They both clear their weapons and throw them away. They kneel facing the front door with both hands behind their heads. Sarah feels some pain in her left forearm, but maintains the uncomfortable position.

“When they storm in, yell ‘blue-on-blue’ out loud,” orders Michael. “Is that clear?”

“Copy,” answers Sarah.

A few seconds later, both the front and back doors open simultaneously and black-uniformed police storm in, shouting ‘armed police’. Michael and Sarah immediately answer with ‘blue-on-blue’, signalling that they are on the same side. As expected, the armed police consider them as suspects until proven otherwise. Some officers point their MP5s at Michael and Sarah’s heads while others cuff them. They pick them up and slam them on top of a counter. A police officer gives Sarah a professional frisk, including her chest and groin area, and takes her wallet. Sarah is told to stand and another police officer flashes his torch at her face.

“Name and unit?” asks the armed police officer with his Mancunian accent.

“Inspector Sarah Michelle Dharmawan, Interpol Manchester,” answers Sarah.

“Place and date of birth?”

“Jakarta, 30th of April, 2002.”

“From Indonesia, eh?” asks the police officer, giving her a disbelieving look. “Now say ‘I love you’ in Bahasa.”

Aku cinta padamu,” says Sarah.

The police officer is stunned for few seconds. “C-C-Could you… ehm… you know… ehm… look into my eyes and… ehm… s-s-say it again… please?”

Aku cinta padamu,” says Sarah, giving him a smile.

The police officer is stunned again for a few seconds and then starts scrambling for his smartphone. “Okay then… all I need now is your phone number…”

“Will you get on with it?” yells Michael, still face down on top of the counter. Unfortunately for him, the counter is covered in sliced and diced vegetables.

“Right, so who the fook are you?” asks the police officer.

He gives a signal to another officer to release Sarah and hauls Michael up. He takes Michael’s wallet and takes out his ID card.

“Major Michael Adrian, British Army,” answers Michael, his Irish accent more pronounced than usual.

“Where do you come from?”

“Ireland.”

“I can hear that, you stupid mick. Which part of Ireland?”

“Belfast,” answers Michael, starting to pout.

“Date of birth?”

“15th of December, 1997.”

“Now say somethin’ in Gaelic,” orders the police officer.

Póg mo thóin!” answers Michael without any hesitation.

“Yeah, right. I knew you were goin’ to say that, you fookin’ arsehole,” says the police officer, taking off the handcuffs. “Now get the fook out of here while we sort your fookin’ mess!”

“Wanker,” mumbles Michael, cleaning his hair and face of bits and pieces of vegetables.

Michael and Sarah start walking toward the dining area when another police officer, kneeling near Tiny’s dead body, asks from behind them. “Which one of you killed this fookin’ monster?”

“I did,” answers Sarah.

“How the fook did you manage to ram a pen into his fookin’ chest?” he asks, giving her an incredulous look.

“You can read it in my AAR,” answers Sarah curtly.

Michael leads Sarah out of the building. Arthur is waiting anxiously for them. He looks pale and dishevelled.

Arthur sees Michael and hurriedly goes over to him. “All right, mate?”

“We’re fine, Arthur,” answers Michael.

Arthur sees Sarah behind him and hugs her. “Oh thank God you’re all right!” he says, his voice shaking.

“Hey, I could use a hug too, you know.”

“Piss off, Michael,” says Arthur without looking at him.

Arthur suddenly realizes that Sarah’s returning his hug with only one arm. He sees blood on her left arm.

“Oh, fuck! Let’s get you to a medic,” says Arthur, panicking again and directing them to one of the ambulances.

They wait while Sarah is treated by a paramedic. The bullet has made a deep slash on her forearm, but hasn’t hit any bones. It isn’t that dangerous, luckily, as it has gone nowhere near her radial artery. The medic can treat her on the spot, but he urges her to go to the hospital for antibiotics.

“I’ll clean the wound with antiseptics and close it with some Dermabond Advanced, but I want to give you some lidocaine beforehand. All right?” suggests the medic.

“No thank you on the painkillers,” says Sarah firmly.

“Are you sure? It will be quite painful,” the medic urges once again.

Sarah only shakes her head and the medic continues his treatment. The antiseptic really smarts when it touches her wound, but Sarah doesn’t show that she’s in pain and only closes her eyes. In the middle of Sarah’s treatment, Broussard finally arrives with his team. All bar Paul. They’re relieved when they see their teammates are still alive. Broussard and Arthur stay with them and the others are ordered to assist the GMP at the crime scene. Paul finally arrives, panting and looking quite pale, but is immediately ordered to go inside the restaurant.

Broussard talks to both of them, his voice shaking. “Thank God you two are all right! I will sort this one out, but I order both of you to return to HQ, re-arm yourselves, and to deliver the After Action Report immediately. After that, you have a twenty-four hour ‘warm down period’. You two have been working almost seven days a week since the beginning of this and I really appreciate it, so I’d prefer both of you take the rest of the week off for some R&R. Stay away from Manchester, but please stay online at all times. I require both of you to be back at the office on Monday morning next week, is that clear?”

“Clear, Chief,” they answer.

Broussard looks at Sarah’s wound for a while before heading towards the restaurant. He has to report Sarah’s condition to the Secretariat NCB Indonesia and Police Brigadier General Prasetyo.

The medic is finally finished treating Sarah. “You’ll take a tetanus shot, right?”

Sarah nods and rolls her sleeve all the way up while the men admire her toned arm and shoulder. The medic gives the shot intramuscularly into her firm deltoid muscle. After that, the medic takes something out of his wallet.

“If you need anythin’, call me at this number anytime. All right?” says the medic, giving her his business card.

Sarah smiles and thanks him. They head towards Michael’s car in the car park. Michael briefly gives the medic a mean look before leaving him.

“How the fuck did they manage to find you?” asks Arthur incredulously.

Michael and Sarah can only shake their heads.

“Arthur, we’re unarmed,” says Michael. “Maybe you can help arrange an armed escort for us to GMP HQ?”

“Right, I’ll handle it,” says Arthur. He leaves them to make arrangements.

A few minutes later, a Land Rover Defender from the North West CT Unit arrives to escort them to GMP HQ.

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