|“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”|
This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred.
Morrison came down to breakfast and looked at the offerings the Pacific Plaza hotel had laid out for their delectation. He baulked at the fried rice and eggs and knew that misery followed the consumption of the freshly peeled fruit on ice. He settled for white rolls and conserve. Even with the air conditioning, it was getting hot and immensely humid and it had rained for most of the night. He saw Mitchell dressed similarly to himself in a dark suit. Opel Canyon Securities insisted that all of its operatives dressed in dark suits for city business and airport runs, a lightweight linen suit for work in the field. Smart professionalism at all times. He joined Mitchell at the table and ordered coffee from the Philippino waitress, slightly puzzled.
“Morning, Harry. I thought you were supposed to be up watching the rooms ‘till I take over at nine.”
Mitchell shrugged, “They told me to piss off, more or less. Said they had business to discuss and the hotel security was just fine.” His accent was Kiwi to the core, a tawse of a man with a number one- cut. This was the third time they had partnered up on a job. They were a good team, known as the M&Ms in Opel Canyon.
“I suspect that it’s the kind of business that involves burying the mutton-dagger, prior to a shower and the airport run to get out of this shithole.”
Morrison tried to visualise the two Americans making the beast with two backs, but found it difficult. The two oil company executives were not exactly ugly, they just seemed very different and sown up. An unlikely coupling. Morrison thanked the waitress as she left the coffee and looked around the hotel’s dining room. Middle-aged German and British sex tourists. Adventurous young Australians. Two American oil executives who had just cut a deal with the main Philippine Petroleum Company and their close protection.
“This place gives me the creeps.”
“Why’s that, mate?” Mitchell asked, pushing his plate away.
“Because I’ve done this job in places where the danger is clear and present. Obvious. Expected, but here the threat can come from nowhere.”
“I know what you mean. Like Bali. A paradise full of Islamic nut jobs who smile as they give you your bourbon on the rocks and then blow you to pieces.
“Morrison looked across at Mitchell and guessed that he was ex-New Zealand SAS. They never asked those kind of questions.
Morrison pondered the e-mail he had received yesterday evening, the one that had kept him awake most of the night, “Do you mind if I ask you a question, because I reckon that you and I have walked in the same cuds, probably on different occasions.”
“As long as it isn’t: “Do you find me attractive in this suit,” then ask away,”
Morrison was very astute. Mitchell had been part of the SAS team, which had cleared Taliban insurgents from the diplomatic quarter in Kabul.
“I’ve had an e-mail from an old comrade. He’s in some bother and wants me to do something for him.”
Mitchell drained his coffee, then asked: “Legal or not.”
“How well do you get on with this guy?”
“I hate his fucking guts.”
“Do you have a bond, an agreement?”
Mitchell pondered this for a while, “Mate, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Sorry, I can’t help you. Anyway, let’s get down to practicalities. Who gets Elmer Fudd and who gets the Ice Maiden?”
They tossed a coin and Morrison called.
“Bollocks,” said Mitchell. I’ve got Elmer in the front. You’ve got the Ice Maiden, but don’t worry. She’ll be nicely warmed up for you.”
The cars were pulled round to the front of the hotel at 1030am, two Toyota Land Cruisers with Kevlar padding and armour. The local drivers did the niceties of opening the doors while Morrison and Mitchell politely hustled them down to the cars, whilst watching the roofs. Both of them carried briefcases that if a button on the handle were pressed, the case would drop away and they would have access to the Heckler & Koch .45 ACPs. Both carried Glocks in shoulder holsters and Morrison had a Fairburn Sykes knife in a sheath attached to his leg. Mitchell preferred the KA-BAR. Both of them had personal radios with an earpiece and throat mike. All of the luggage had been put in the vehicle, supervised by Mitchell.
Morrison got in the rear Land Cruiser after the Ice Maiden and sat on a fold-down seat so he could watch the road behind. Neither of them noticed the doorman move to the side and make a call on his mobile.
“Morning Ma’am. Did you sleep well?”
“Good morning, Mr Morrison. I found it rather hot and oppressive if I’m honest.”
She was professional and polite. Nobody wants to piss off their close protection team and she did love his quaint, British accent. He could have sworn her face had a healthy glow and she seemed less buttoned-up. She was wearing a linen trouser suit, very wise for the flight to Manila and then onward to the States. The next day Morrison and Mitchell would go their separate ways for some leave, their jobs done until the next time.
She started reading some notes taken out of a folder as the mini-convoy left the hotel. Soon the modern multi-storey buildings of Cotabato City became a single-storey jumble of shanty buildings, heaving with humanity on scooters and tuk-tuks. Children yelled and ran after the Land Cruisers, screaming and holding up their wares. After crossing the Tarbeng Creek Bridge the buildings seemed to be more random and dilapidated. Ahead was the Tamantaka Bridge, low on piles with each-way traffic, a water pipeline running parallel with the bridge. The Tamantaka River was a turgid, muddy and populated by a few boats going with the flow.
The Land Cruisers were about fifty metres apart when the lead hit the bridge. A truck pulled out from the right after them, cutting up the traffic and slowing any vehicle that had been following. The traffic on the bridge was light as they headed south to the airport. Too light. Morrison’s Spidey senses were tingling. He glanced at the truck behind.
“Err, Harry, we seem to be making good time.”
It was their code word for possible trouble, so as not to alarm the passengers.
“Roger that,” Mitchell replied in his earpiece.”
Morrison looked over his shoulder at the lead vehicle and caught the glance of the driver, who had also been briefed. There was very little in the way of opposite traffic on the bridge, just then a van suddenly veered across the central demarcation line and ploughed into the lead Land Cruiser. The explosion swung Morrison’s vehicle around, the windscreen became an opaque mass of splinters, but it held and the Toyota hit the crash barrier on the nearside of the bridge. Morrison dragged the American woman onto the floor and pressed her head down.
“Stay down, Ma’am and stay in the vehicle!” he yelled.
The case was gone and the Heckler & Koch was cocked. His driver was slumped over the wheel, blood coming from his ears. He rolled out of the door and looked ahead. What was left of the van and lead Land Cruiser were entwined, both vehicles burning furiously. Mitchell was crawling out as the pick-up roared up the bridge from the south. It slewed across the road blocking it and four armed men poured out of the back. Behind him, the truck allowed a pick-up to come past from the north then veered across the road. They were trapped on the bridge and the first rattles of the AK47s came from both directions.
Morrison concentrated on the pick-up that had passed the truck, leaving Mitchell to cover the threat from his end. A song popped into his head unbidden in the terror and he started to hum loudly as he laid down short bursts at the windscreen of the approaching pick-up.
Ooooohhhhhh that’s the way a-huh, a-huh, I like it, a-huh, a-huh…
The windscreen went and the pick-up fishtailed to a halt, four men jumping out. Eight against two. Not good. Morrison dropped one and the others scurried into cover behind the pick-up. He turned round to see how Mitchell was doing and the New Zealander was changing magazines when the 7.62mm round blew off his mandible. He remained on his feet and rammed in another magazine firing frantically, no more controlled bursts. His bloody tongue lolled down the front of his neck like a grotesque tie and he must have been in agony. A second round hit Mitchell in the groin and he went down still firing until a man ran up with a grenade and tossed it in the burning Land Cruiser. He was wearing the white of a martyr and Morrison duly obliged. But the grenade went off, destroying the wreck of the Toyota and shredding what was left of Mitchell. Elmer Fudd and the driver were out of the equation.
He turned back to his arc and the three were out of cover and running up the bridge. He heard the dead man’s click of the empty chamber and frantically changed magazines. He dropped a second, but the rest were closer now, taking cover in the steelwork of the bridge.
“Mr Morrison,” the Ice Maiden yelled at him from the back of the second Toyota. She was covered with glass and her face was cut, “I do not want to have my head sawn off for the entertainment of these fucking savages!”
“Me neither, Treacle. Can you swim?”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
He fired two long bursts in either direction, then grabbed her by the collar of her lovely, linen trouser-suit. Rounds were cracking past them as they went over the crash barrier, Morrison holding on grimly to the woman, hoping she had taken a deep breath. He clouted his shoulder off the water pipeline and they went into the muddy water. He had an arm over her chest, dragging her deeper with powerful breaststroke kicks. Ribbons of bubbles followed them down where the insurgents were firing at them from the bridge until he found the current and went with it. She started to struggle bet he held her down for as long as he dared, then they broke surface and he gasped for air.
“Sonofabitch!” she gasped, panting.
“Save it! Ready, down.”
In the brief moments they had been on the surface, Morrison saw the men on the bridge firing down at the river and a second party following them along the southern bank. This time he held her down longer and she had stopped fighting him, allowing the current to take them. The Heckler & Koch had gone but he still had the Glock and fumbled it out of his jacket. When they surfaced a second time, he fired at the men on the bank, those on the bridge being out of range. They scattered into the trees. He saw something about thirty metres away, going on the same course with the current. When they went down again, he kicked towards it, guessing where it would be because the water visibility was so bad. They surfaced just short of the raft of tree debris and rubbish, a brief gasp then down again. This time they surfaced within the mat of debris, next to the corpse of animal, so decomposed and full of putrid gas, it was impossible to tell what it had once been.
“Not a sound,” he whispered at her.
The stench of dead animal was so bad she started to gag.
“Breathe through your mouth.”
“I can fucking taste it!”
The party on the bank were unable to keep up with the current and they were soon out of sight of the bridge around the bend in the river, but they could still see smoke rising from the structure. He felt bad for his oppo and the drivers, but his duty had been to protect the woman. Thirty minutes later they swam for the north bank of the Tamontaka River in a spot that was protected from sight by Punul Island. They walked the three kilometres back to Cotabato City and flagged down the first police car they saw. In the back of the car on the way to the main police station, she started to shake with delayed shock.
“I’m sorry about Mr Ridges,” he said but was thinking about Mitchell and his lolling tongue. He shuddered and she grabbed on to him. I’m alive because of the toss of a bloody coin.
“Morrison, you saved my life. I can never thank you and you don’t know how grateful I am, not to die in this awful place.”
The American Embassy had both of them flown to Manila that afternoon after being questioned by the police. She was accommodated in the best hotel in the capital. Morrison’s was slightly less plush, but she upgraded him to her hotel out of her personal account. That night and for most of the next day, Morrison discovered just how grateful she was.
Back in Oxfordshire, Morrison made an inventory of his barn conversion near Bledlow. While the shell was safe and secure, there was still much work to be done inside. He had a functioning kitchen, bathroom and living area, but extensive work was needed on the guest rooms, dining area and outbuildings. Mick the builder looked after the place while he was away and helped with the work while he was there. Morrison had never married, something he rather regretted, but he reckoned he would have made a terrible husband and even worse father. Mick had left him a note:
A couple of blokes were round asking after you yesterday. I think they were Old Bill. They asked when you were coming back, but I said I wasn’t sure. I can make it next Friday if you want.
Morrison assumed they were wanting to question him about his Philippine adventure, so he had a few drinks with a meal and went to bed. The next day he didn’t feel like working so caught up with his mail. He didn’t notice the Vauxhall Insignia pull into the front of the barn, so he got a shock when there was a loud, purposeful knock on his door. When he answered it, two men in suits stood on his doorstep. He didn’t think they were Plods for some reason. Spooks?
“Mr Morrison, formerly Warrant Officer One Morrison?”
“Yes, you being?”
“Retired Chief Petty Officer Regulator Hooper and Civilian Investigator Clements. We represent the Iraq Historic Abuse Tribunal and we are serving you with these documents.”
He tapped Morrison on the shoulder with the envelope and handed the envelope over, “Would you please read the documents we have served you with and be available for an interview under caution tomorrow, here at 1100. You may have representation if you so wish. In fact, we would advise that you do.”
“Is this some kind of a joke?
“I’m afraid not sir. Please be in when we return.”
They were gone and he stood blinking in a state of shock. He carried the envelope into the kitchen and put on the kettle, made a strong coffee and started to read.
Warrant Officer One D Morrison (complete with Service number) is accused of being party to the unlawful killing of a Mr Muhammad Al Jazari on the 28th October 2005 in Amarah in Maysan Province Amarah. Warrant Officer Morrison was a member of a team, which did unlawfully open fire on Mr Al Jazari without issuing a verbal warning, in contravention of then current Rules of Engagement outlined on Card Alpha.
Mr Al Jarzi was unarmed at the time of the shooting and at no time during the event did he engage in any violent action towards any British troops. Given these circumstances it is deemed that Warrant Officer Morrison’s actions transgressed any definition of the use of reasonable force. While it is acknowledged that Warrant Officer Morrison did not personally open fire on Mr Muhammad Al Jazari, as the senior non-commissioned present, he bears ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the operation. In addition, Mr Anah Ahamad and Mr Jamail Hamdani are seeking recompense from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for mental trauma, caused when Mr Al Jarzi was unlawfully killed in front of them.
Morrison was sorely tempted to have a drink, but knew he had to keep a clear head. He thought again about the e-mail he had received and had not as yet responded to. He left a long note to Mick the builder and once it was dark, drove six mile southeast into the Chiltern Hills. He was very close to Air Chief Marshall “Bomber” Harris’s old stomping grounds when he parked the car and went into the beech woods.
He found the tree and the hollow in the bole and dug. He came across the ammunition box, retrieved the money and documents, put the steel box back and backfilled. Like most of the men and women in their former teams, they had decided that people with their knowledge were a danger to the deep state and she was a fickle mistress. Two days later, Morrison was a different person with a different look and identity. He booked an early holiday in the sun with a travel agent, “To get away from the awful British Weather.” The nice young lady in the travel agents had smiled her understanding.
“You lucky thing,” she said.
The Hospital Particular do Algarve was close to Praia da Rocha in Portugal and it boasted that it was equipped with modern facilities and the latest technology. The hospital certainly looked the part and the white building hurt his eyes in the bright sunlight. At the reception he tried his passable Spanish, but for some reason, the two ladies chose not to understand him, so he gave up and reverted to Pidgin English.
“Ha yes, Meester Hedge,” The lady made a telephone call and a nurse clip-clopped into the reception. He was grateful she looked like a nurse wearing white clothing that was clean, rather the scrubs.
He followed her into the bowels of the hospital to the high dependency unit. In the HDU, Edge was still connected to many machines that went beep.
“Ten minutes,” the nurse said sternly and left.
He was shocked at his state. It was like half of his face was slumped with a rheumy, half-closed eye that looked red and sore. Edge opened his good eye and looked at him.
“What have you done, Edgie?”
“Thanks for coming,” he whispered hoarsely.
“I’ll take the shot for you,” Morrison said and tried to stop himself from bursting into tears…
More from Blown Periphery here.