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Strike Back sample


Paris – Spring 2019


The child in the red tee shirt staring at Detective Superintendent Kate Bowen had moments left to live. As Kate’s police escort sliced through heavy traffic on the Paris ring road, she gave the little girl a cheery thumbs-up when her armored 4x4 overtook the family’s yellow Renault. The impish child stuck her tongue out in response. Kate tipped her ballistic helmet in salute as her convoy motored past on a steady trajectory.

The fleeting interaction reminded Kate that she’d forgotten to buy a present for her niece’s upcoming birthday and she called a friend.

‘Hi Angie, I need a favor.’

‘Hi there, what is it?’

‘Would you pick something up for Ellie? Her birthday’s on Saturday.’

‘Leave it with me. Where are you; what’s all the radio chatter?’

Up ahead a cacophony of car horns blared. Traffic was building on the motorway toward Charles de Gaulle airport.

‘On a ride-along in Paris—a favor for Mac, I’ll fill you in when I see you. Traffic is horrendous.’

‘You get all the sweet trips.’

‘D’ya’ think?’ Kate replied, as, without warning, the convoy shuddered to a halt.

‘Don’t stop – go round, go round!’ Special Agent Zach Chapman barked into the radio from the front.

‘Someone doesn’t sound happy,’ Angie said.

‘Something’s up, I’ve got to go,’ Kate replied.

‘The red Peugeot on the right is blocking us,’ a reply blared from the radio in French. ‘It’s stuck halfway out of the lane.’

‘Get it out of the way,’ Chapman pounded the dashboard, ‘shift it sideways if you have to.’

The Préfecture de Paris motorcycle escort swung into action as Chapman bent his long lean frame toward the windscreen.

‘Stalling a high-security convoy is a big no-no,’ he said. ‘And if Secretary Turlington misses his round of golf with the President there’ll be hell to pay.’

Kate leaned her elbows on the back of Chapman’s seat to get a better view.

‘C’mon,’ he agitatedly scratched his angular jaw, radio at the ready. They were thirty minutes out from the airport and the clock was ticking.

The cops grabbed either side of the tiny hatchback’s rear bumper and hauled it sideways in measured shunts. Suddenly, the officer working the left side stopped and stared into the car.

‘Now what?’ Chapman said.

Both cops turned toward the convoy and wigwagged Chapman to reverse but that option had gone. Traffic in the lanes to the rear that split obediently moments earlier in response to blue lights and sirens, had locked together again. Kate’s stomach knotted; the familiar warning that something was off. Alongside, a car horn tooted. She glanced sideways to catch a bright yellow family car slip by. The little girl in the back seat thumbed her nose as traffic in her lane moved forward while Kate was stuck solid.

As the frantic policemen struggled to unclip their weapons, the Peugeot detonated sending a shockwave of metal in Kate’s direction. Chapman roared a warning into the radio that went unheard.

On instinct, Kate grabbed his jacket collar, propelled him into the footwell, and ducked. The blast hoisted their Dodge off the roadway and tossed them violently around the cab. A weapon carry case clattered hard against her ballistic helmet, but a combination of it and the flak jacket Chapman insisted she wore on the ride-along spared her serious injury.

The Dodge withstood the blast, but its engine cut out. Kate’s first thought was for the cheeky child as she shook off the debris and used the back of the seat to pull upright.

‘Oh God, no!’ she exclaimed, covering her mouth in anguish, as she pulled off the helmet’s cracked goggles.

The Renault’s engine was ablaze, its roof ripped off and everyone inside obliterated. Beyond it, cars that had taken the full brunt of the explosion billowed black smoke. The Dodge had done its job and shielded the black limousine transporting their VIP. Members of the French protection team who stood guarding it when the convoy halted had not been so lucky. Every single one was cut down.

‘Get up,’ Kate yelled at Chapman as she clambered into the front.

Blood trickled down his neck as she grasped his arm and hauled him upright. His eyes were caked with dust and grit and she placed her hands on his shoulders to concentrate his focus.

‘It’s an ambush, we need to exit, fast.’

Chapman blinked incomprehensibly. Harry the driver was out cold, oozing from multiple lacerations, his head inclined against the door frame.

‘Get the door open,’ Kate said, ‘we don’t have time.’

Chapman grasped the handle and pulled but nothing moved.

‘Hit it,’ Kate shouldered him.

Chapman got the message and rammed his broad shoulder against the passenger door as he pulled its handle. Nothing moved.

‘Budge over,’ she said, as she lashed kicks at the cracked windscreen.

He followed her lead and kicked it hard until it fell forward. Kate clambered out, slid off the bonnet, and helped Chapman scramble clear. In the open, the full horror struck her like a hammer blow. Acrid black smoke billowed from the red Peugeot while around it, vehicles including a truck blazed out of control. Blood-spattered chunks of metal, large and small, were strewn across the road. Kate’s mind was in overdrive and fear gripped her as she surveyed the bomb site. She pulled her gaze from the yellow Renault and pushed Chapman into cover near the Dodge’s engine.

‘I’ve gotta check Harry,’ he said.

Kate guided him to the driver’s door,

‘I’ll do it.’

Together they wrenched it open and she found a water bottle as she checked the driver’s pulse.

‘Hold still,’ she pushed Chapman against the side of the Dodge, and doused his head and hands, all the time checking for the onslaught she knew was coming.

The noise was deafening. Fires burned out of control and piercing screams for help jarred Kate’s intense concentration. ‘Harry’s badly dazed, but still with us. The groaning’s a good sign.’

Chapman pushed wisps of wet blond hair from his eyes as Kate wiped the blood from a gash on his forehead. When she was done, he leaned into the 4x4 to settle the heavyset driver into a recovery position. He sprinkled water onto his colleague’s face.

‘Stay strong, Harry, help is…’

A crack, crack of rounds ricocheted off the Dodge’s bonnet. Chapman froze.

‘Get down,’ Kate grabbed his sleeve and pulled him behind the driver’s door.

She peered forward trying to pinpoint an enemy. Where had the shots come from? The thick smoke provided perfect cover for an assault. It swelled into dense plumes as punctured fuel tanks tipped their burning contents onto the motorway.

‘I need a weapon,’ she said.

‘Grab Harry’s Sig,’ he replied.

Kate unholstered the driver’s sidearm with the ease of a veteran. She ducked behind the driver’s door with the struggling Secret Service agent as shots peppered the bonnet.

‘Can you see where the shots came from?’ Chapman asked.

Kate peered through the door’s shattered window as smoke billowed everywhere.

‘Jesus! Gunmen with assault rifles dead ahead, fifty meters, advancing.’

Chapman blasted toward them from the side of the door. He got lucky, the rapid burst felled one attacker. Kate loosed off a follow-up volley that made the assault group dive for cover. Time seemed to stand still as she checked and double-checked for movement.

‘RPG,’ she shouted when she saw a shoulder-held weapon aimed in their direction. She sprayed a burst toward the attacker and held her breath.

‘They’re after the VIP,’ Chapman said, as he dumped a spent clip and replaced it. ‘Can you hold them off?’

‘I can try,’ Kate replied.

‘Wait for my signal.’

She grabbed the extra clip Chapman offered and directed single shots at the gunmen as he crouched and ran toward the black limousine.

‘Stay put,’ he ordered the embassy chauffeur who cracked a window open on his approach.

Behind the limo, the French protection team leader knelt in deep distress comforting a dying colleague on the motorway’s concrete surface. Most of his team was lost. He was down to two functioning agents.

‘Jean-Loup, we need to get the Secretary out of this,’ Chapman shouted.

Kate heard Chapman’s voice but could not make out his orders. She ditched the helmet and focused on what was coming at her.

‘Jean-Loup!’ Chapman roared a second time. ‘We need to get away.’

‘On borrowed time here,’ Kate shouted to no response.

Jean-Loup raced to his unmarked car and returned with a briefcase-like device that he kicked toward Chapman. It slid along the motorway until he trapped it with his foot, and shook the ballistic shield open. Kate glanced back toward the commotion at the limousine.

‘Send backup,’ she roared. ‘I’ve got to move.’

Chapman jammed the protective shield against the politician’s back as he looked in her direction.

‘Now,’ he signaled.

‘Help’s on the way, Harry,’ she told the driver. ‘Stay strong my fr…’ An ear-splitting sub-machine gun burst shook her.

‘Allez, Allez,’ a French protection agent urged, ‘I’ll pin these connards down.’

Kate crouched and raced back to the retreating group, as they moved rapidly toward the off-ramp. In the bedlam of gnarled traffic below, Jean-Loup commandeered an SUV from a terrified mother, frantic as she lifted her wailing child from its safety seat. Chapman pushed Secretary Turlington into the rear and lunged on top of him. Kate leaped into the front as the French cop floored the accelerator and sped away.


By the time they reached it, avenue des Champs d’Elysées was gridlocked, but not the chaos of noise Kate anticipated. Terror attacks had become a fact of life and Parisians had grown wary. Few car horns honked to complain as drivers sat in the static traffic. Instead, they checked their phones for news updates as exhaust fumes choked central Paris. Jean-Loup summoned a motorcycle cop controlling a junction and ordered him to ride ahead of their commandeered bright red Dacia SUV.

They inched along the grand boulevard, dodging on and off sidewalks to get around clogged traffic and maintain momentum. They needed to reach the U.S. embassy on avenue Gabriel and the quickest way was via avenue de Marigny. Its entrance was blocked, controlled by a snarl of gray metal barricades and a company of CRS riot police. They served as a dramatic backdrop for TV journalists recording reports.

‘We need to deliver a VIP under threat to the American embassy, tout de suite,’ the motorcycle escort updated the CRS commander.

The commandant peered into the SUV at its blood-stained occupants,

‘Do you need your injuries checked out?’

‘Just get us to the embassy,’ Jean-Loup replied.

‘The Elysée next door is locked down but we’ll get you through.’

He summoned two of his men and placed one either side of Jean-Loup’s vehicle, perched on running boards, and clinging to the roof bars. Television cameras instantly switched their focus to avenue de Marigny and narrowed in on the little red SUV driving up its center. The CRS escort communicated continually with rooftop snipers guarding the Elysée Palace.

When the engine spluttered Kate glanced sideways at Jean-Loup’s vicelike grip on the steering wheel, his hands streaked red.

‘Almost there,’ she said.

He wheeled right at the top of the road where his CRS escort descended. They saluted and headed back to their muster station. Jean-Loup spurred the commandeered rescue vehicle to the front of the U.S. embassy and fumbled with the window controls as a Marine Captain approached.

‘ID!’ an anxious voice demanded.

‘Decker, lift the barrier for God's sake. It’s Special Agent Chapman with Secretary Turlington.’

‘Oh Christ, my apologies, Sir. I didn’t recognize you, you’re a mess.’

Kate noticed Jean-Loup’s grip on the steering wheel relax as the barricade executed a measured lift. Simultaneously, low-tech countermeasures to uninvited vehicles slowly retracted into the ground. He eased the little SUV forward and halted behind the guard room where Kate opened childproof rear doors for Chapman and his VIP.

‘You are safe now. I must rejoin my team,’ Jean-Loup told him.

The French Protection Service had its headquarters close by. Jean-Loup’s trembling voice betrayed the fact that the loss of his colleagues was starting to impact.

‘Kate, will you walk with Jean-Loup to his HQ?’ Chapman asked. ‘It’s a street over.’


‘You saved our lives,’ he said, as he ushered Secretary Turlington towards an embassy side door. ‘We won’t forget.’


Kate faced an instant debrief when she arrived at the Service de la Protection HQ. The Interior Minister bayed for an immediate report on the catastrophic attack and she helped paint the horrific picture while a nurse cleaned Jean-Loup’s wounds and a doctor sutured his lacerations. When she finally got to call her boss, she knew he was close to despair.

‘I feared the worst,’ Mac said.

He learned of events in Paris from breaking news reports of multiple casualties and had called Kate repeatedly without a reply. By that time, her phone was lost inside the wrecked 4x4, a tiny element of a massive crime scene.

‘I got lucky,’ she said. ‘Chapman put me in a flak jacket and helmet for the ride to the airport. I whined about it until we were ambushed.’

‘I’m glad you’re safe.’

‘Reckon there’ll be any blowback?’

The ride-along was unofficial, a courtesy arranged by Mac’s FBI buddies and offered by the U.S. Secret Service. Just what the Irish government would make of a Garda officer engaged in a gunfight in Paris was open to debate. Ireland’s neutral stance in international conflicts was sacrosanct to the politicians.

‘Don’t worry about that.’

‘How the hell are we supposed to keep up-to-date with best practice?’ Kate asked.

‘I’ll brief the Justice Sec-Gen all the same.’

‘Damn Justice and their politicking; a French Prosecutor requested I make a statement and I obliged. The Service de la Protection recognized my assistance.’

‘You sure you’re okay? Do you need to talk to someone?’

‘Are you afraid I’ll go rogue and call a journalist?’

‘Jesus, Kate! This isn’t you. Let me get the Garda Medical Officer to talk through the experience with you.’

‘You don’t trust me?’

‘Kate, stop!’

Both were well versed in the toxic effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. The medical officer regularly updated the PTSD awareness embedded in training programs at Kate’s Surveillance and Intelligence Unit. Team members developed an awareness that any life-endangering trauma left a profound mark, which had to be acknowledged and managed.

‘I just need rest. A doctor gave me something to help me sleep.’

‘All I care about is that you’re safe. We’ll figure out the rest. Are you sure you’re okay?’

‘I’m fine.’

‘Europe’s called an emergency head of services meeting for Berlin tomorrow.’

‘Let me go back,’ Kate said. ‘An early flight from here will get there quicker than one from Dublin.’

‘Are you up to it?’

‘With some sleep, I’ll be fine.’

‘There will be plenty to discuss. Today was a barefaced strike against the West.’

‘I’ll keep my personal phone on at all times.’


As darkness fell, Kate sat wrapped in a bath towel at the end of a hotel bed, her suitcase open behind her. She stared blankly as tired dark green eyes reflected from the hotel mirror. She once argued with a Garda recruiting sergeant dogmatically bent on recording her eye color as hazel. A common confusion, Kate told him at the time; the green came from a mild amount of pigmentation with a golden tint. It delighted her that only two percent of the world’s population had it.

The ancient hairdryer labored on her brunette mop. Kate tossed it to the ground in frustration and brushed absentmindedly until it settled in the style her sister christened ‘bedhead’ as a teenager. Kate saw no reason to change it any time soon. Both of her eyes had dark circles underneath and she prodded gingerly at red and purple bruising welling up under her left arm. She was bruised and sore from the extraordinary couple of hours she had endured in the French capital. She tried some cool-down stretches. Her ribs ached, it was too soon. She removed light pajamas from her case, tossed the towel, and pulled on her nightwear. Dead on her feet, she lay down, closed her eyes, and tried to tune out the constant ringing in her ears.

She dozed a while and woke to find two missed calls from her mother. She took the phone off silent and called back.

‘Hi Mum, sorry to call so late.’

‘Katie, nice of you to call back - eventually. Are you home?’

‘No Mum, still in Europe. I’m wrecked, can we keep this short and sweet.’

‘Missy, if you don’t slow down,’ her mother scolded. ‘You’ll meet yourself coming back.’

‘Mum, someone’s got to do what I do.’

‘It doesn’t always have to be you.’

‘Is everything okay at home?’

‘Fine. You haven’t forgotten Ellie’s birthday party on Saturday, have you?’

‘Of course not. I’ve got her a present, I’ll see you Friday night.’

‘What did you get for her?’

‘S-sorry?’ Kate said.

‘What did you pick up for Ellie?’

‘It’s a surprise.’


‘Safe travels, my darling daughter,’ her mother laughed. ‘I’ll see you on Friday. Love you.’

Kate closed her eyes and twisted and turned to get comfortable. Doubt nagged. In her thirties now, was it still worth it? The near-death showdowns, the never-ending oversight investigations that followed, replete with bureaucratic critique disguised as recommendations.

No matter what made her weary to the bone, one memory always brought comfort. She recalled it now to suppress the image of the devastated yellow Renault. It was more sensation than imagery. Her childhood fingers locked into her grandfather’s rough-hewn hand as they set out on early mornings into dew-laden fields to pick wild mushrooms. He had been a stable male presence in her life after her father absconded back to Wales and left his family to fend for itself. She could never get back their lost years, but a long time ago she vowed to strain every sinew to ensure that the Northern Ireland terror that ruined her grandfather’s life would never be visited on others. Not if she could stop it.



Straight from her Berlin red-eye, the squad room’s familiar caffeine aroma greeted Kate when she reached home base. The brown-bricked ex-Public Works store was perfect for her Surveillance and Intelligence Unit. Its ivy-straggled outer walls blended with neighboring properties in the wooded valley linking Chapelizod to Castleknock, sprawling Dublin suburbs. Kate had overseen a construction project that converted its underground storage space into car parking to keep transport assets away from prying eyes. It completed a makeover of the building Mac had begun years earlier.

She glanced at the whiteboard with its collection of headshots, SIU’s currently engaged targets. Operation names on top, status below. Kate followed the caffeine scent and popped a capsule into their state-of-the-art coffee maker. When it brewed, she draped her coat over her arm, grabbed her travel bag, and shuffled toward her office, coffee cup gingerly balanced.

Ron Sexton popped his head out of the DI’s office as she passed. He ducked back to retrieve his journal and followed her. As they walked, he pulled a tweed jacket on over his pristine white shirt and blue striped tie. Short of wearing a uniform, with his sturdy build and dark hair always cut to regulation length, he screamed cop. Sexton brought forensic attention to his surveillance operation planning role.

‘I need a word on the Gordon murder,’ he said.

‘Give me a second,’ she replied.

In the sanctuary of her office, she slumped into her chair and closed her eyes. Aside from being sore and stiff from the Paris shootout, she detested flying. Multiple flights in three days had drained her. While the Berlin flight had been uneventful, she needed a moment. By the time Sexton stuck his head around the door minutes later, the coffee was helping.

‘There’s a case conference at Blanch in forty minutes. I need to be there.’

‘Okay, shoot.’

He pulled a chair in front of her desk, opened his journal, and read.

‘Ben Gordon was murdered at six-thirty yesterday evening as he exited his company’s car park in Blanchardstown. The crime scene examination was wrapped up in the past hour. Mainly apartment blocks around there and two people witnessed a blue Yamaha 750cc motorbike pull in front of the victim’s car. On hearing the screech of tires, they peered out their windows. Looks like experienced shooters. One witness described a hooded figure executing a kill shot to victim’s head while an accomplice scrambled on the ground collecting spent shells from the initial burst.’

He thumbed a page and read on.

‘Crime scene techs recovered one shell underneath the car, close to the driver’s side front wheel. The bike was found early this morning, burnt out in a forest near Dundalk.’

The link to her hometown, close to the border with Northern Ireland, grabbed Kate’s attention. Media coverage had already suggested a dissident IRA group might have carried out a contract killing. There was no evidence to back up that speculation.

She first learned of Ben Gordon’s murder the previous evening as she sat in the Berlin meeting. She had been furiously noting details of violent attacks national Security Services reported, when a flurry of phone texts from Digger, her deputy, distracted her.

‘We know from the Khouri case, Gordon had no criminal history,’ Kate said to Sexton.

‘Am I good to share that with the investigators?’ he asked.

‘Let me talk to the FBI first. We need to update the profile, check if anything has changed with his squeaky-clean image.’

SIU had profiled the IT entrepreneur when the FBI reached out for help on Rafiq Khouri. The FBI landed Khouri as an ISIS suspect when they identified him as ‘the Dark Prince’ on a stealth comms wiretap. The communications Khouri exchanged on gaming consul messaging services spooked the FBI enough to send Agent Cody O’Neill to Dublin when Khouri got a job there. The programmer was in his late twenties, a son to a fourth-generation Lebanese family who ran a small restaurant in Brooklyn in New York. The devout Muslim family was unaware that their genius son had veered toward ISIS. His parents simply believed that their boy, who attended CoderDojos from the age of eight, was a star in the IT world.

SIU inquiries at that time found no pre-existing link between Khouri and Gordon. The latter was a model 21st-century successful software entrepreneur. A handsome whiz kid with boundless energy who liked to employ outliers. Key personnel in his company frequently had personality quirks other employers found unattractive. He had taken on Khouri for his genius with algorithms and dismissed his HR manager’s concerns about the virtuoso programmer’s sullen behavior.

‘Update me after the conference,’ Kate told Sexton.

‘Will do. By the way, call Mac, will you. He’s been on twice inquiring when you were getting in.’

‘Thanks, Ron.’

Before she put the call through, Kate unfolded a red pamphlet she had ripped from her windscreen in the airport car park. She had disregarded it without a second glance. As she leaned back in Mac’s old chair, its added support easing her backache, she read its sparse message. ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.’

More than a little weird, she thought.

A soft tap-tap on her door shook Kate from her reverie.

‘Come in,’ she said.

Angie pushed the door open and placed a large bag on Kate’s desk.

‘Best I could do at short notice,’ she said.

Kate fidgeted with the bag containing her niece’s present.

‘Whoa! What’s happened to you?’ Angie asked.

‘I don’t look that bad, do I?’ Kate asked.

‘You’ve looked better.’

‘Grab a seat.’

Kate explained what she had been through in Paris. How a favor for Mac had turned into a life-changing event.

‘Why did he ask you? We’re a surveillance unit, not a protection unit.’

‘Justice won’t authorize a replacement for the Chief’s spot in Protection and he’s trying to cover all the bases. I was just the unlucky one he asked to do the ride-along with the U.S. Secret Service to observe and report on how they do business.’

‘You don’t say. At least you have Ellie’s party tomorrow to take your mind off it.’

‘What did you pick her up?’ Kate asked as she opened the bag on her desk.

They both laughed as Kate extracted the ‘easy-to-assemble’ princess’s castle.

‘Hah, think of the fun Norrie will have to put that together for Ellie,’ Kate laughed.

Angie was the first colleague from her surveillance unit that Kate had introduced to her family. Difficult to believe that Angie, pixie-haired and petite was even old enough to be a Garda. Her penchant for changing her hair color was legendary; currently, it was rainbow.

‘What do you make of that?’ Kate asked, indicating the red pamphlet.

Angie picked up the crumpled paper and smoothed it out. ‘Sounds biblical. Where did you get it?’

‘Under the wiper of my car at the airport car park when I got in.’

‘A bible group seeking converts, maybe?’

‘Odd message, if that’s the case. Research it and come back to me, will you? I need to call Mac.’

Assistant Commissioner Redmond McEnroe, the boss at Security Branch, was Kate’s mentor. A six-foot-plus former oarsman, he had served in SWAT teams and surveillance units for the best part of his service as police. She had flourished under his guidance when he was Chief at SIU.

Skipping formality, he enquired, ‘Any update?’

‘What I sent before I traveled this morning is the latest.’

The ISIS onslaught had been as devastating in its coordination as it had been unforeseen. Just days before the Paris trip Kate had sat around the same table in Berlin and listened to the same nodding heads agree that the international terrorist threat was two clicks below critical.

‘The Middle East conflict has camped on our doorstep, I’m afraid,’ Jan Krause, the acting German chair, told everyone in the wake of attacks across the continent.

The death toll around Europe was in the hundreds and rising. The injury toll was still being evaluated. In the UK, London has once again been the target. As reports on the attacks filtered through, a pattern emerged. These were unlike the suicide attacks of recent years. There were no reports of terrorists self-detonating to take as many bystanders as possible with them. No hired cars or hijacked trucks rammed into innocent pedestrians. Instead, well-armed, seemingly well-trained small groups had launched gun and grenade attacks on civilian targets. The fidayeen-style attacks mirrored the Mumbai attacks, years earlier. The tactic involved heavily armed small squads of gunmen or bombers launch fluid attacks that responded to local security force reaction in varying the point of the onslaught. Kate told the meeting that it was too soon to link the Dublin murder of Ben Gordon to the mayhem in Europe.

‘The attacks are a serious escalation aimed at causing maximum alarm around Europe,’ Mac said.

‘The common feature is the style of attack, gun, and grenade mostly. France got a real hammering,’ Kate replied.

It had been a horrific night. Apart from the attempted assassination of the American Secretary of State, three armed men had entered the exclusive Hôtel de Luxe in central Paris through the kitchens and opened fire in the lobby. Rioting broke out in the outer suburbs and quickly spread to Marseille and Lyon. The far-right Front Nationale had mobilized a lynch mob in Lille and tried to storm high-rise apartment blocks, home to North African asylum-seekers. A policewoman died in an exchange of gunfire with FN supporters.

‘The continental attacks were coordinated; someone behind the scenes was pulling the strings,’ Kate continued.

The attacks demonstrated a high level of planning and honed military skills. The attackers shot by Paris police trying to flee the Hôtel de Luxe had been identified as returned jihadis from the Syrian conflict.

‘And an RPG rocket was fired at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome,’ Mac noted.

‘Well, it was an entrance gate to the Basilica square. All the same, killing two Swiss Guards is highly symbolic.’

‘Jan Krause wants us to identify any violent action occurring here in the past twenty-four hours that might fit an ISIS profile. Is that it?’

‘In a nutshell. We don’t know enough yet about Ben Gordon’s murder to say it meets that criteria.’

‘I’ll need an updated threat assessment by five,’ Mac continued.

‘I figured as much. We’re pulling a draft together.’

‘The U.S. president just tweeted that the Dublin murder is a direct attack on American business,’ he said. ‘Like that helps!’


Kate’s workload was stacking up by the time Angie returned brandishing the red pamphlet.

‘Old Testament, Book of Deuteronomy 32:35. A biblical denunciation.’

‘Bag it for the moment and record when and where I found it.’

‘Religious groups do this kind of leafleting all day, every day. Apocalyptic warnings of eternal damnation. Are you overreacting?’

‘Will you just do as instructed,’ Kate said.

Minutes later Angie dropped a transparent evidence bag onto Kate’s desk and made to leave as Digger arrived.

‘You okay?’ he asked.

‘I’m fine,’ Kate said. ‘Hang on a minute, Angie, will you?’

She closed the door and asked Angie to pull up a chair.

‘I’m sorry I barked at you.’

She didn’t want the Paris shootout gaining legs in the unit. Digger and Angie were her closest friends there and she trusted them. She asked them both to keep schtum about it for the moment. Digger sat alongside Angie, distracted by the evidence bag he had seen her deposit on the desk. He barely made the five-foot eight-inch height requirement back when he joined the Garda. The limit had since disappeared. Although the oldest in the room, his wiry frame accentuated a coiled toughness and gave him a youthful look.

‘Mind if I take a look?’ he asked in his lilting Kerry accent.

He was already reading the pamphlet through the clear plastic when Kate asked why he was interested.

‘Mmm…’ he mumbled.

‘What?’ she asked.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a similar pamphlet and laid it out on Kate’s desk. He smoothed it out and read it aloud,

‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time…’ he continued until he had read the full quotation.

‘Where did you get yours?’

‘Windscreen of my car when I came out of a petrol station this morning.’

‘Did anyone else here get one?’ she inquired.

In the recent past, SIU had lost a colleague to a murderous criminal whose gang the unit targeted. It pained Kate that she had gauged that threat inaccurately.

‘Nobody’s mentioned receiving anything.’

‘Make sure everyone on the unit sees it,’ Kate said. ‘Find out how many are going around. Find out where they’re coming from.’

Angie took both sheets to fast-track through forensic examination.

‘Well?’ Kate asked Digger.

‘We’re unlikely to get much from forensics but we’ve no shortage of enemies. Take your pick.’

‘Someone is monitoring our movements. Draw up a list of suspects when we find out how many threats have been received.’

By later that evening no other pamphlets had been identified. Angie scooped CCTV footage and was already reviewing it. A tall suspect in black biker leathers and matching helmet with a yellow lightning flash on its rear showed at Digger’s morning fuel stop. The suspect casually popped the pamphlet under the wiper of the car before taking off.

The airport CCTV confirmed a motorcycle courier also delivered Kate’s pamphlet the previous evening. The rider had a well-worn tan leather jacket and appeared less nimble than Digger’s messenger. Angie used traffic camera footage to track the suspect exiting on roads surrounding the airport. She expected the bike to head for the city, but it did the opposite. It turned left onto the slip road for the M1 motorway. It was headed toward Kate’s home town of Dundalk and the invisible border with Northern Ireland that lay beyond it.

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