Paolo had reacted quickly to the explosions on the cruise ship, saying, “That is an Italian ship. I need to get to the consulate; the consul is going to need a lot of help and his staff are not going to be much use.” At first, he was going to take the hire car, but then changed his mind and called a taxi which was quick to arrive. He kissed Jinnie goodbye and said, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I promise I will ring you.”
The others watched as flames that had flickered on the ship’s open deck were quickly extinguished by the ship’s firefighting parties. Jinnie wished she had the binoculars that had been in their stateroom so she could see details but the ship still seemed to be underway under its own power and had turned to head back into port. Two of the port tugs were heading out to the cruise ship and Jinnie could see the pilot boat in close attendance. Fortunately, the damage done to the ship didn’t appear to be too bad as there was no sign of the lifeboats being launched and the ship was clearly on its way back into the harbour under its own power.
Jinnie woke early the following morning and switched on the bedroom TV with the volume turned down low so as not to wake the household. She tuned the TV into a local news station that had an outside broadcast unit at the port. A ticker ran across the bottom of the screen giving basic information. Four or Five explosions had occurred on the open deck of the ship, they had caused fires which had damaged the actual timber decks, a bar, lifeboats, stacks of loungers and various other fittings and fixtures. Fourty-two passengers and three crewmen had been injured but no one had been killed. Because of the rain the open deck party for the sail away had been transferred into the Sky Dome and fortunately this had not suffered any damage.
The reporter was speculating that time bombs had been placed on the ship during the naming ceremony. Jinnie thought this unlikely. The ship’s security was such that it would not have been easy to get one bomb on board, let alone four or five. All the bags had been x-rayed, and the guests had all been invited and were all known and ticketed. Jinnie thought for a few minutes, how would she have done it? By dropping bombs from the air was her bet. But she had not seen or heard a plane or helicopter.
The villa was waking up and Jinnie could hear Izzy talking to the twins, so she decided it was time to get up. Over breakfast she voiced her idea to the other adults and said, “But I didn’t see or hear a plane, did any of you?” Nobody had, but Penny said, “If I had been planning that I would have used electric drones, quiet, virtually invisible at night and it explains why the explosions were on the open decks and small. The load-carrying capacity of a small drone is not huge, that sounds like hand grenade damage to me. Just right for a small drone.”
The twins had no concept of what had occurred while they had slept and Jinnie decided that perhaps that was for the best. She told them that she and Auntie Penny were going into Bridgetown because Auntie Penny wanted to buy a dress, but Izzy would take them to the beach as usual. She told them she expected to be back in time for lunch and kissed them goodbye.
Penny really did want to buy a dress and she wasted no time getting exactly what she had seen in the boutique window in her size. Jinnie remained outside the shop and watched the pre-lunch queue forming outside the Chicken Shack. The longer she watched the more she was amazed at how such a small shop was doing so much business. She strolled over the road and read the menu in the window. What surprised her were the prices. This shop was in the centre of Bridgetown where running costs were going to be high, but the prices were lower than the beach restaurant near the villa that they often used for lunch, and she thought of as cheap. But it was the sheer number of customers that really amazed Jinnie. Thinking about the cost she guessed it was those numbers that kept it down and the low cost that kept the numbers coming.
Jinnie decided to ask some people in the queue how good was the food and what they would recommend. The first person said, “Yo man, Auntie JoJo’s is the best. Just you try the barbecue ribs.” But his neighbour in the queue said, “No man, the fried chicken is real good, much better and cheaper than over there,” indicating the KFC opposite. A good-natured discussion then broke out as to whether Auntie JoJo’s or Cheffette fried chicken was best. But everyone agreed that Auntie JoJo’s jerk chicken couldn’t be beaten. Jinnie instantly decided that Trattoria Trevi would never win in a straight fight with Auntie JoJo’s, but could they buy in and establish a chain? Then she thought about Britain and the number of West Indian communities that could support a branch, Brixton, Toxteth, St Paul’s, Tottenham, Hackney, Croydon, Lewisham, Moss Side and that was without doing any research.
Penny joined Jinnie and turned off their mobile phones before together they entered the Continental Restaurant where they had dined a few nights before. The smiley girl on the reception desk immediately looked up from her computer and said, “Hello ladies, do you have a reservation.” “No,” replied Jinnie, “I wonder if the manager or a director is available, I would like a word if possible. Please could you give them my business card?” With that Jinnie handed over her Trattoria Trevi business card that said, ‘Dame Jinnie De Luca, COO Trattoria Trevi Group.’ The girl quickly scanned the card and picked up her phone.
Within a few minutes the sisters were seated in a tiny office opposite a man who introduced himself as David Braithwaite the managing director and main shareholder of the Continental Restaurant. Having accepted a cold drink Jinnie wasted no time in explaining to David that having dined in the restaurant twice she was impressed and wanted to explore the possibility of Trattoria Trevi buying into the business. She continued saying that although the food and service were excellent the restaurant itself was a little shabby and could do with being refurbished. David listened in silence and waited until she had finished. Then he replied, “I have never really considered taking a partner, the restaurant makes me a comfortable living just as it is.”
Jinnie said, “OK, but you clearly can’t afford to live to the standard you have become accustomed to and to refurbish the restaurant or you would have done so. If you carry on without refurbishing the restaurant it won’t be long before business drops off. We can make a large cash injection into the business and sort out your problems. We would like to refurbish the Continental and then turn it into a chain by opening more restaurants on other islands. Of course, we could always just open up in competition, I can’t see the Continental lasting for more than a year once we open just down the road, we have the financial clout to undercut you. It may cost us more in the short term, but we have deep pockets, and we will win.”
Penny sat in stunned silence; she had never seen her sister being so ruthless before. Jinnie had told Penny she was going to make an offer for the business and had suggested that she should just listen and speak only to agree with her. David was clearly in a corner, Jinnie had effectively given him options, either sell most or all of the business or lose it completely. David thought for a moment and then said, “Would you want to buy a percentage of the business or buy 100%? Would you keep on all the current employees? How much would you offer?” Jinnie smiled and replied, “In the U.K. if we were buying a going concern there are various ways to value a business. If the business is profitable the norm is to offer say four times the annual profit plus the value of property and equipment. But I guess that may come up with a number lower than you would like, the annual profit is clearly going straight into your pocket and not being reinvested. Alternatively, we could look at the company assets like building freehold, fittings, etc and add a sum for goodwill. I think this might give you a more acceptable valuation. We would really like to buy 100% of the business but we might settle for 90%. We would take on all the current employees on the same terms and conditions, and even offer you a job as managing director, but you would be paid a wage and report to me. Our actual offer for the company will depend on an examination of your accounts but at a guess, it going to be between £800,000 and £1,000,000.”
David again thought and finally said, “I think I would like to sell the business outright and I would prefer to retire and not to work as MD. I own 100% of the company and have got used to being my own boss, I don’t fancy going back to being an employee.” “That’s fine with me,” said Jinnie, “When can I get my finance director a look at the accounts and someone in to look at what refurbishment work needs doing?” “The books are in the accounts office,” replied David, “your people can see them any time.”
Jinnie and Penny left the restaurant and turned their phones back on. Jinnie had a missed message from Paolo, “Please phone me.” Penny’s phone started to ring almost immediately and while she answered her call, Jinnie rang Paolo who she had on speed dial. Paolo answered on the second ring and explained he was completely bogged down at the consulate, he was having to deal with the injured passengers who were in hospital, finding hotel accommodation for all the passengers with minor injuries and flights home for the uninjured as the ship was not seaworthy, having lost many of its lifeboats. The consulate employees were totally useless, but the British Embassy had loaned them three people who were doing more than all the local employees put together. Paolo said that he would eat at the consulate that evening, would be home late, but only to sleep. Jinnie said to wake her if she was asleep when he came in as she had news for him.
Penny had finished her call before Jinnie and as soon as she finished said, “That was ‘C’. He has recalled me from leave and wants me to report to the embassy as soon as possible. The Italians have asked for our assistance in investigating the attack on the cruise ship, they think it was the Germans. Can you drive me over?” “Of course,” said Jinnie.
As Jinnie drove away from the embassy after dropping off her sister her phone rang. She pulled to the side of the road to answer it. A female voice said, “Is that Dame Jinnie De Luca?” When she said “Yes” the voice continued, “Please hold I have ‘C’ on the line for you.” A few clicks and a new voice said, “Hello Jinnie it’s Alan.” “Hi Alan, I thought I was going to speak to ‘C’.” Alan chuckled and said, “You are. The last ‘C’ resigned with ill health a month ago I took over.” “No one told me,” said Jinnie. “I guess you have had no need to know until now,” said the new ‘C’. “I have something very important to tell you. The Italians have asked for our assistance in investigating this cruise ship attack, I have just spoken to your sister, and she is going to lead our team. But I have to tell you the PM has taken the decision to recall you to the service for the duration of the investigation as you are on the spot. You need to get over to the embassy for a briefing by your sister who you will be reporting to. I understand your husband is already running the Italian side of the investigation and will be joining you. Dan is being called in to the embassy to assist. So, I am afraid that your nanny is going to be a little busy with the twins for a while.”
Jinnie was stopped as she approached the British Embassy by armed Barbados Police Service officers, who wanted to know her business there. As soon as she gave her name he gave her permission to proceed. This was the first BPS armed officer she had seen, as the force was normally unarmed and Jinnie wondered if it was the British accent, her title or if he had been pre-warned she was coming that she was passed so quickly. As she approached the main entrance the door opened, and a Royal Marine corporal saluted and waved her in. At the reception desk where she was issued with a photo pass on a lanyard, the local receptionist called her Dame Jinnie and directed her to briefing room B2. As she walked to the room, she couldn’t help but notice the photo on the pass was the old one from her SIS Vauxhall Cross pass.
Already seated at the table were her sister, Daniel, Paolo, and a man in his mid-forties who she didn’t know. He introduced himself as Lenny Williams, a second secretary in charge of embassy security, but Jinnie knew as soon as he spoke, he was the in-house SIS man. Lenny had a broad Birmingham accent and Jinnie thought, ‘I’m going to have trouble understanding him.’ Lenny said, “Now we are all here let’s go through what we know for sure and what we suspect happened.” He quickly went through all the information that had been on the TV earlier but confirming that there had actually been five explosions, but one bomb had dropped in a swimming pool and had not gone off. All six bombs had been caught on the ship’s security cameras and seemed to indicate an aerial attack. Paolo confirmed that 45 Italian citizens had been treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and 38 had been released after treatment. Seven people had been admitted. In addition, so were three crewmen, who had been fitting fires, one with smoke inhalation and two with burns. Of the four passengers admitted, two had broken bones, one had deep lacerations and the final one had suffered a minor heart attack in the incident. None were seriously injured, and most were expected to be released in the next few days.
Penny asked if any aerial vehicle had been detected and Lenny said no. Jinnie asked if the nearby airport’s radar had detected a plane or helicopter and again the answer was no. Penny then said asked if they were to assume the attack was by a drone or drones. Lenny replied, “It’s beginning to look that way. We have no proof as yet, but it is the only method that suits the known facts.” “Have we found the launch site for the drone?” asked Penny. Again, the answer was no. But Lenny added, “Modern military standard drones have long ranges, and the size can vary from something the size of a sparrow to something as big as a light aircraft. Of course, in this case it will have to have been big enough to carry a camera and the small bombs it dropped, but not so big it could be easily detected. Smaller drones can be launched from virtually anywhere and have quite a range, I have seen over 100km quoted, so that means anywhere on the island and with a camera, line of sight is unnecessary.
Penny said, “I have worked with electric rechargeable helicopter drones on a mission, and I was amazed by the range and controllability of such a small handheld device. Admittedly the ones we used only carried cameras for reconnaissance, but the clarity of the pictures from their three tiny cameras was remarkable. But I would have used kamikaze drones, they can carry a larger payload and are faster through the air. Has any debris from a drone been recovered?” This time Paolo answered, “The BPS have only done a superficial search, mainly looking for unexploded devices, they have cordoned off the open deck and are waiting for a full forensic search but I don’t know how much use that will be as firefighting parties with high pressures hoses have been all over the area and are likely to have washed evidence overboard.” “I think we should get down to the ship and have a look for ourselves as soon as possible,” said Jinnie. “Agreed,” said Penny, “We will be looking for something specific rather than a general search.”
The meeting broke up, leaving Dan, who wasn’t a field agent, left to run the office end of the investigation, while Penny, whom ‘C’ had placed in charge of the operation, paired up with Jinnie to have a poke around on the ship. Lenny and Paolo were to have a look at the headland for possible drone launch sites. Before they split up, Lenny said he had organised embassy pool cars for Jinnie and Penny. He explained that these cars had holders for automatic pistols under the driver’s seats, the engines were tuned, the window glass was armoured, and Kevlar plates were inserted in many places, like in the doors and around the fuel tank, for added protection. The cars also had sophisticated electronics that could detect if it had been interfered with in any number of ways. Paolo was driving an Italian Consulate car, Lenny already had his ‘special’ embassy car, so Jinnie tossed Dan the keys to the hired people carrier saying, “You better have these.”
Before setting off for the cruise port Jinnie checked under the driver’s seat and found her favourite military Glock17 Gen 4, with a full magazine of 17 rounds and two spare full magazines. ‘That’s enough to start a small war,’ thought Jinnie. The security at the port saw the embassy diplomatic plates on the cars and waved them through. They were directed to a car park and then strolled to the cruise terminal. Jinnie was pleased she had left her gun in the car when she saw that ship’s security were now not just x-raying bags and putting people through a magnetic arch they were getting people to empty pockets, take off shoes and belts and x-raying them before going through the arch. The sisters showed their embassy-issued passes to the armed BPS officers at the bottom of the gangway and again to ship security at the top. Then a ship’s junior officer led them up in the lift to the pool deck and unlocked the door to the outside areas.
The sisters orientated themselves and headed for the main pool area which was a mess. They stood back and took a good look at the immediate area. The officer explained that the place was pretty much as it had been once the emergency workers had finished their work, indicating several pairs of discarded surgical gloves and dressing wrappings. Jinnie pointed to the pool and asked, “What is that?” about something that was floating in it. The officer said, “It looks like soggy cardboard to me. Maybe something dumped by the emergency services?”
The sisters walked over to the pool for a better look and Penny said, “Do you think it looks like a wing sis?” “Yes,” said Penny, “and that looks like a propeller and electric motor on the bottom. Well, I guess that confirms our drone theory, but a cardboard one, really?” “We better not disturb it; I’ll ring Dan and get him to get a police forensic team over immediately. Can you tell the other team we are definitely looking for a launch site. Judging by that wing it must have been a fairly substantial drone. My guess it has a metre and half wingspan. But is there such a thing as a cardboard drone? That’s another one for Dan to check.”
In chapter 4 – The search is on
© WorthingGooner 2023