As doctor on-call at Ebrington Barracks in Londonderry, I sprinted out onto the flood-lit helipad and leapt into the waiting ‘chopper’. We lifted off and headed for the accident site somewhere in the countryside. Apparently a Mercedes sports car, travelling at speed, had driven into a patrolling Land Rover at a junction.
It was a tense situation; most situations were tense in Northern Ireland in 1974. Soldiers stood around the wrecked vehicles with their weapons at the ready, while their trained first-aider did what he could for the driver of the Merc’. There were no other casualties.
We landed and I moved in to assess the patient. She was a girl of about twenty, with long black hair and what had been a pretty face. She was in a bad way; she had not been wearing her seat belt. Under my guidance the soldiers carefully moved her onto a stretcher. As she was being secured I heard the sergeant say, “This’ll be trouble. She’s Kareen Migilligan.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Her father’s Commander of the South Derry Section of the Provos. Really bad news.”
I ignored the comment. “Right. Let’s move. She’s got a fractured skull and crushed ribs.”
At the hospital I paused at the door of A&E, relishing the fresh air. A man approached. He had stunning white hair, was wearing a white medical coat and carrying a stethoscope. I nodded acknowledgement of another professional. He nodded back but there was something about his body language. He had piercing blue eyes and I noticed that he had lost the tip of his index finger. He walked on purposefully and entered the ward where the girl was now under controlled sedation awaiting surgery. I saw him speak to the nurse.
* * *
Seven weeks later, my successor and I were passengers in an unmarked car travelling from Derry to Armagh. I was returning to Aldershot in two days time and was in the process of handing over. We rounded a corner and screeched to a halt. A furniture van was parked across the road and three masked men emerged from behind it.
“Get down!” Our driver yelled as he slammed into reverse and floored the accelerator. It was too late. A car pulled across the road directly behind us. We were trapped. Faces and guns surrounded us.
“Get out.” We obeyed. “On your knees. Hands on the car.” Again we obeyed.
Rough hands searched our pockets, removing our wallets that contained our medical and military identity cards. The man studied the contents then walked over to us. This was it.
As he looked at me I noticed his piercing blue eyes. The hair protruding from the back of his ski mask was snow white and as he closed my wallet I noticed that the tip of his index finger was missing.
“Get up.” He said “Get back in your car.” We obeyed. He dropped the wallets in through the window and said “What goes around comes around – full circle. Away you go.”