War Crimes Part 13 – Moira’s Story

This is fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is coincidental. The events outlined have never to my knowledge occurred. Some of the locations are real.

Once Edge had finally left the Army, life was relatively easy. He was happy in his own company, delivering products or dropping off farm machinery the length and depth of Devon and Cornwall. It was all too easy, but monstrously difficult. It was impossible to know where the lines were, because they seemed to change all the time, constantly shifting like the Goodwin Sands. He would say something one week and people would laugh, but the next week there would be a complaint. It was never to him, but to a line manager, a union rep or a “good friend.” And on a long, boozy, New Year’s Eve he crossed the start line in the Hoppers Inn and County Hotel. There would be no going back.
Edge had been drinking since lunchtime, before he even made it to the New Year’s party. Moira and he had rowed the night before, over a trivial matter that had seemed so important, as these things do. She hadn’t wanted to go to the party, but a youngster under eighteen in the business had volunteered to babysit for a few kids in Moira’s mum and dad’s house. She was being well paid for it. Daz and his mates had also been drinking since lunchtime, fortunately in different pubs.
Moira arrived with her mum and dad for the more sedate part of the evening with the managers. Even this seemed a calculated insult to her husband, of whom there was no sign. Daz arrived with the beginnings of the hoi poli and made a bee line for Moira. He was clearly drunk and in a foul mood towards her, but like the psychopath he was, was all sweetness and light to Moira’s father. They were in a corner well away from the bar and the throng with low lighting.
“Where’s your arsehole of a husband?”
“I don’t know, so piss off, Daz.”
“I think you and I should sit down for a little chat. He grabbed her and she felt something hard against her stomach. He wasn’t pleased to see her. She pulled away and saw he had a fisherman’s knife with a rubber handle, eight inch blade with a serrated top.
“I know you have a liking for knives, Moira. But this one’s better than your stupid breadknife and I’m going to shiv a Pongo tonight, Moira. And then I’m going to fuck you. Depending on how well behaved you are, I might not cut you up too much.”
He had crossed the line into insanity and she was terrified.
He steered her to a quiet table facing the door and pushed her down, sitting next to her with his arm draped round her neck, copping a feel of her breasts when he thought he could get away with it. Edge pitched up about fifteen minutes later and looked around for Moira. When he saw her sitting next to Daz, his face hardened.
“All right, Daz?”
He looked up and gave a smile, or was it a sneer, “All right, Mark?”
“I was wondering, Daz, if I could sit next to my wife.”
“Plenty of room either side, Mark.”
He thought that Moira gave him that: Oh don’t make a fuss look. It’s just Daz being Daz. But he had drunk too much to pick up on subtleties. She was wide eyed with terror. She mouthed something at him, so Daz couldn’t see: He’s got a knife! Edge read it as: Please, get a life!
“Oh, I see. All right then Daz. Let me put this another way, if you don’t stop feeling my wife’s tits, I’m going to rip your fucking face off,” Edge said in a low, almost pleasant voice.
“Mark, for God’s sake stop it,” Moira hissed up at him. Across the room, her father looked up as though this were predestination.
“Look, mate, you’ve obviously been having a stressful week. You’re not in the Army now. See, all those years in the Army have made you paranoid.”
Edge put his glass down slowly on the table, “I tell you what, Daz, why don’t we step outside so that I can show you just how fucked up the Army’s made me?”
For Moira it was like watching a multiple car pile-up on the motorway ahead of you. Knowing there would almost certainly be deaths and you would be part of the collateral damage.
Daz undraped his arm and grinned up at Edge, “Lead the way, dickhead. “I’ll see you in a minute, Moira.”
The vicious knife was concealed under his jacket as he stood up. Moira went to sweep the glasses off the table as distraction to get away, but Edge moved impossibly fast and smashed his forehead into Daz’s nose and mouth as he stood up level. There was a sound like a lump hammer hitting a melon. Moira was showered with blood and fragments of acrylic teeth, enamel and dentine from real teeth and Daz went down like a sack of potatoes. The knife went under the table and one of his posse would retrieve it later.
Edge was still on his feet but reeling. He looked primeval and grotesque with blood running down his face. The framework of Daz’s cobalt-chromium denture had ripped his forehead open and a flap of skin showed the bone underneath.
“Wachyerallfuckinglookingat?” he slurred to the shocked bystanders, then turned to Moira, “Fuckin shlut! All the time I’m away you been fucking with that piecshe of shit. You deserve each other.”
Edge stumbled out into the cold night, leaving stunned onlookers shocked by the scale of the violence they had witnessed. Daz’s posse wisely decided not to follow him. The police arrived before the ambulance and Daz was still unconscious.
While the ambulance crew worked on Daz, the police started taking statements. Moira’s father was extremely helpful with regard to the police enquiries, while Moira’s mother took her back to the family mansion. Luckily someone had put Daz in the recovery position otherwise he may have choked on his own blood. Moira’s mother was astonished at her daughter’s reaction when she voiced concern about Edge, while she was cleaning up her daughter. Moira went straight for the jugular.
“It would never have happened if you hadn’t invited that fucking psychopath!”
“Well he is your husband, dear.”
“Not him you fucking moron! It was Copeland. He held a knife against me and said he was going to kill Mark.”
“I really find that hard to believe, dear. We’ve known Daz a long time and please don’t swear at me. We only have your best interests at heart. Yours and the childrens’. I think you had better stay with us for a few days while your husband comes to terms with his violent actions. There is no telling what he could do and I’m sure that the police will arrest him.”
Moira bit her lip knowing her mother was right in this case but for the wrong reasons. She was desperately upset at Edge’s harsh words to her and the familiar weakness regarding her parents. She stayed a few days that became over a week.
Edge had no recollection of stumbling home in the darkness over the fields. He woke up to the worst headache he had ever suffered and the sharp features of a tabby cat staring into his face. He was slumped on the sofa and Monty was kneading his chest, demanding his breakfast. Edge fed him feeling sick and went upstairs to the bathroom. It looked like Dr Crippen had been at work. The white porcelain was spattered and smeared with blood and the towels on the floor were soaked with it. The suture set from his survival kit was sitting on the side of the sink with a bottle of vinegar.
“Oh please tell me I didn’t…”
He looked in the mirror and groaned. He had badly stitched the skin flap on his forehead, which continued to ooze dark, matted blood.
On the second of January he was arrested in his house at 0600 for causing an affray and actual bodily harm. During his two days and nights in Barnstaple Police Station, Edge said only eleven words:
“I will make no comment to you. I want a brief.”
Moira returned to the cottage after Edge was released from custody. To say that the atmosphere in their home was somewhat tense was an understatement. They both fully expected a custodial sentence, but what made Moira particularly bitter was that her husband had convinced himself that had been having a long-standing affair with a man who had threatened to kill them both. The only thing she could say to him would be that Daz had been carrying a knife. But that would almost certainly have driven Edge on a murderous spree. She cursed herself for her weakness.
Much to both of their surprise, Edge wasn’t sent down and was given a non-custodial sentence. But Moira’s father had a great deal of satisfaction in sacking him the day he was found guilty at Barnstaple Magistrates Court.
“It’s no good whining about it Moira,” her father told her when she went to plead Edge’s case, “I have a duty of care to all my other employees and can’t afford to have a bloody nutter on my books. You’re always welcome here with your Mum and I, and I advise you to come home sooner rather than later before he decides to beat up one of your kids.”
“He would never do that to us!”
“I did warn you what they’re like. They never change.”
“Sometimes you can be loathsome, Daddy.”
When Moira said she had tried to change her father’s mind, Edge had laughed, “You know what, Moira love. Your daddy can stick his fucking job up his arse.”
His contempt angered her, but he continued to provide for his family working on the fishing boats out of Bideford. They would often leave in the early hours and Edge would hit the pubs before walking home. He was drinking like an Alistair McLean hero.
“Oohh, look at this Moira,” he said one morning, holding up a copy of the North Devon Gazette, “Violent Fracas at Bideford Hotel at New Year. Disgraced former soldier fined and given community service. It’s a nice picture of Daz, don’t you think?”
He spread the newspaper on the table, “Mr Mark Edge, former, disgraced soldier, had uncharacteristically erupted violently at a family function on New Year’s Eve. Mr Daniel Copeland had suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the unprovoked assault.
“Mr Edge of Mead Paddock Cottage Weare Giffard had served a four-month sentence in a Military Correction Facility for assaulting a German Policeman in the 1990s. Have you been talking to members of the press, Moira?”
“No.”
“What about a little word to your daddy?”
She bit her lip.
Edge screwed up the paper and threw it at her, “Stupid, fucking bitch!”
Just before Easter, Moira wanted to have a make or break discussion with him regarding their future. Edge was drinking enough and yet not enough to know that they had no future.
“Mark, I don’t know who you are any more. You’re not the person I married.”
And that was the problem in a nutshell. He was exactly the person she had married. But she wasn’t. She was older, perhaps wiser and had moved on with children. He hadn’t. His children seemed to skirt round him, as though he were a stranger in his own house.
“It’s not me, it’s you, Mark.”
“Well that was a novel take on things, “There was me serving my country and putting a roof over our heads, while you were fucking your daddy’s hired hand.”
“For Christ’s sake, Mark! I have never had an affair with Daniel Copeland. I used to go out with him while I was still a kid and I ended it,” she was crying now, “And I swear that I have never looked at another man since I met you. Why won’t you believe me?”
“Because I have eyes.”
“We can’t go on like this. You couldn’t get a proper job when you left the Army. Daddy was really good to you and you just threw it back in his face.”
Edge tried to remember just how good Mr Tremain had been to him while he had been driving his poorly-serviced, clocked delivery lorries.
“And I feel for the safety of the children, after your violent escapade. Do you know what they’ve been saying to them at school, that your Dad’s a nutter?”
“Is that because their nutter of a father stopped their mother making a fool and a trollop of herself?”
There was silence. He heard a jet fighter rumble overhead, a distraction in their court of misery.
“You’re a bastard, Mark. You always have been. There’s something missing in your head. My father said that poor Daz can’t…”
Edge chose to mishear so the situation fitted his own narrative, “Fuck him! If I ever see him again, I’ll kill him. Fuck Daz, fuck your father and fuck your entire family.”
He’d wanted to say those things for about fourteen years and now he had said them, he could never put them back. She was gone in less than thirty minutes. When he returned the next afternoon well-oiled (the boat had docked at 1100), all her clothes and possessions had gone. The children’s’ bedrooms were gutted. It was like his life had been wiped off the slate. He lit the inglenook and cried a few, dry Merlot tears that were as salty as the wounds in his hands and just as wretched. In his heart of hearts, Edge knew that he had made the worst mistake of his life.

*

Moira continued to remain in contact with Edge, but there was always anger and suspicion on his part and bitter sadness on hers. She wanted them to be a family again, but apart from their own problems, there were too many external influences from her own extended family, but at least Daz kept away.
One afternoon they met over coffee. She told him about what she and the children had been doing while he remained non-committal.
“The children, particularly Francis are upset because Monty has gone missing.”
“He’s with me. He came home in a right old state,” he chuckled like the old Edge, “You can take him back, but he’ll just run away again. It’s not me he wants, it’s his territory.”
“Please let us get back together, Mark.”
“Are you prepared to move away from here, away from your fucking parents?”
She shook her head and her eyes welled up.
“Then you know what the answer is.”
In the New Year of 2013, Moira decided that she had had enough of trying to bring up a family in an annex above garages and workshops. It had been a turgid Christmas spent in the company of her family and she had come to the decision that a flawed husband was better than living with controlling parents. She had analysed her life with Edge and had come to the rather startling conclusion that he had never once raised his hand in anger against her, or the children. Then she started to pick apart her parents’ arguments and accepted wisdom. None of them stacked up. But the biggest shock was when she realised that her father had actually put her in harm’s way regarding Daz Copeland. He had to have known and she suspected her father had grown frightened of his right-hand-man. His killing of Edge would have removed both problems and Moira was acceptable collateral damage. She screwed up her fists and hammered them down on the table to punctuate her anger.
“YOU… FUCKING… BASTARD!”
Moira drove to the cottage at Weare Giffard and saw an empty and depressingly un-cared for building that had been her home. She tried her key in the lock, which didn’t work. Then she toured the building peering in windows. It was still furnished, but empty. Their little cottage on the river was cold, damp and derelict. It was like a nail through her heart.
“Hello, can I help you?” an old lady asked from the gate, “Oh, sorry it’s you, Mrs Edge.”
“I’m looking for Mark. Do you know where he is? Hello Miss Penrith.”
The old lady looked at Moira with kindly eyes. Being no stranger to heartache and misery herself, she put her hand on Moira’s shoulder, “Come up to my place and I’ll tell you what I know.”
She made a pot of tea and a cat sauntered into the kitchen.
“Monty. Hello boy,”
The cat raised his tail in greeting, recognising his old Mum.
“I’m looking after him now. You can take him if you want.”
“Mark said he would just run away again. He loves his territory more than humans. He seems happy. Poor boy with that scar. He has been in the wars.”
They sipped tea and Miss Penrith shook her head sadly, “Your husband has gone away.”
“For how long?”
“For ever.”
Moira started crying, “Where’s he gone?”
“I don’t know, honestly. He left before Christmas and said everything was in the hands of the solicitor. Here’s their card. He even changed the locks.”
“God he really must hate me,” Moira said miserably.
The lady put her liver-spotted hand on Moira’s, “He hated everything, including life. You’re not to blame. There’s something wrong with him. There’s nothing I can say to ease your pain. I’m so sorry dear.”
“Did you ever like him?”
The old lady’s reply puzzled Moira, “With all my heart. He saved my life a long time ago and he never even knew it. I could easily have loved him if we had shared the same time for more than a few hours.”
Moira walked back to her car in tears, but then a new resolve overcame her, tempered by a new hatred for her father and contempt for her mother. She did drive back to Barnstaple, but not to her parents’ house. She went into several letting agencies in the town and asked for information on three-bedroom properties to let in Bideford, Appledore, Northam and Torrington.
Within a month she had moved into a three bedroom semi in Oakhampton, still drivable to her work at the glass factory, and the children had a new school. Before she left, she took her father’s prized golf clubs to the workshop and ground off the heads with an angle grinder. She contemplated filling his MG A with concrete, but realised she would need too many of the small post hole sacks. She consoled herself with pouring some paint stripped over the bonnet, boot and wings. For the icing on the cake, she went into the kitchen, found a potato and rammed it up the exhaust.
Angela helped her move with a couple of male friends, “What the bloody hell took you so long?”

*

In May, Moira was interviewed by two officers from the Counter Terrorism Command, a man and a woman. They wanted to know if she had been in contact with her husband and if she knew his whereabouts. This followed the shooting of a high-profile, civil rights lawyer at his Oxfordshire home.
“Mrs Edge, did your husband hold Nazi views?”
Moira though about the question, “No, he was never a socialist.”
She had learned a great deal through osmosis over the years.
The female detective sergeant smiled in a slightly patronising way, “No, I think you misunderstand. A Nazi, you know, like Hitler.”
“No, I think you misunderstand. My husband was never a member of the German National Socialist Workers Party, or Nazis. He never wore their uniforms or insignia, he doesn’t have his blood group tattooed in his armpit and in fact he didn’t even like Hugo Boss suits.
The female copper looked at her notes, getting flustered, “Errrr.”
“I think my colleague is trying to ask you if your husband had right wing tendencies,” the DI said coming to her aid.
“What do you mean by right wing?” Moira asked in an irritatingly way.
“Of for goodness sake, you must know what right wing means.”
“I know what it means to me. What does it mean to you?”
“It’s obvious.”
“Not to me it isn’t. Define right wing to me.”
“Did he hold any extreme views?”
“Well, sometimes he used to buy the Guardian. He said it was ‘for balance,’ but I had my doubts. Then he started buying the Daily Mail. That’s why I left him.”
They gave up and once back in their car compared notes.
“Well the bitch knows something. Put her under round-the-clock.”
Moira had learned a lot from Edge about the police and being followed in the weeks following his arrest. She twigged within a couple of days she was being followed by an unmarked car when she drove to work or picked the kids up from school. She asked for a day’s holiday the following day after asking Angela if she would pick up the kids until she got home.
That morning, Moira drove to a service station on the M5 near Exeter. She ordered a coffee, then made two calls using the public phone booths. One was to a Freephone number to a police charity, the other to her parents’ house. She reversed the charges, her mother accepted and she left the phone off the hook. She drove to RNAS Yeovilton and took some photographs of helicopters through the wire. Then she drove to St Budeaux in Plymouth and took some photographs of the submarines down in the naval base. She headed north and stopped at a service station at Launceston. She slipped out of a fire escape and headed towards the car that had been following her all day. It was empty, the two occupants inside looking for her. She slipped an envelope under a wiper blade. There was a simple note inside: If you’re going to waste my taxes, then I’m going to waste your time. Get off your arses and catch some real criminals. She drove home feeling pleased with herself.
The year became two, then three and Moira was convinced that Edge was still alive. One Monday she buttonholed Angela.
“Are you still in contact with Henry, our best man?”
Angela looked slightly embarrassed, “Only when we have a mutual itch that needs scratching.”
“Please ask him to pass this to Mark,” Moira said giving her an envelope.
“Moira, he’s dead. You have to accept that.”
“He isn’t,” Moira said fiercely, “When you give it to him, look into his eyes.”

*

Almost eight years to the day that she had walked out of Edge’s life and their home, Moira noticed a flashy car park outside her flat in Oakhampton. The car stopped and a well-dressed, professional looking woman stepped out. She glanced up at the flat and walked towards the front door.
“Mrs Edge, Moira Edge?”
“Yes?”
The woman held up a briefcase, “I have some news that may surprise you. I represent a firm of solicitors in Barnstaple, here is my card. May I come in?”
That night Moira slept in a strange, hypersensitive sleep that transcended the two worlds of the conscious and the other world we inhabit for 25% of our existence. She had been told she had enough money and property to ensure she and her children would be comfortable for the rest of their lives. Moira would wake in the early hours and remain awake for hours until she fell into the essential sleep and REM until dawn.
She was awake when she heard the Front door down on the street open and the hair on her arms and neck bristled. The temperature in the room plummeted. Her breath misted in front of her face. She had one thought that almost loosened her bladder.
Copeland.
He came into the room and pulled back the covers and slid in next to her. His heat was burning cold. He gently ran his finger from her forehead, down her nose and across her top lip.
“Moira, I’ve been so stupid. Please forgive me.”
“Mark?”
“Moira, I’m so sorry. I wasted the best years of our lives.”
“I knew you were still alive.”
He smiled sadly.
“Why, Mark?”
“Because we’re human and fallible.”
They went into each other and Moira was taken back to a time eighteen years previously. She had no dreams and woke up to an almost forgotten scent and a bloody imprint on the pillow. When she went to pee the flow burned, jogging a memory of a Bristol hotel bedroom, so many years ago.

I snipped that lovely parachute badge off your tunic, Mark and I’ve still got it tucked into our book.

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

 

© Blown Periphery 2018