War Crimes Part Twenty-Three – The Burning Man

Blown Periphery, Going Postal

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.

Daz received news from Moira’s father that would make him mad with jealousy and the awful feelings of rejection. One day in work he was driving Frank Tremain to a farm to demonstrate a new type of harrow, suited to manoeuvring in the small, Devon fields. Frank confided in Daz, wishing this charming and helpful young man could have been the son he never had.
“That bloody daughter of mine has just dumped a piece of news on me that makes me want to spit. She’s only gone and informed me that she wants to marry a bloody soldier. A bloody thick infantryman she met at a wedding in Bristol.”
Daz’s hands grabbed the steering wheel and seething rage bubbled up inside him.
“It’s a crying shame and a waste of her life, on which we’ve lavished a great deal over the years. I thought you were walking out with her, Daz?”
“We was, Mr Tremain, but I’m afraid I decided that she was too good for the likes of me. It was never to be… Sadly,” Daz said obsequiously in a shameful display of acting that would have made Kenneth Branagh blush.
“Such a pity, Daniel. You were made for each other. I’ve already tried telling her we won’t pay for the wedding, but she says that she’ll just elope.”
“What’s his name, Mr Tremain?”
“Edge, Mark Edge and he’s only a bloody corporal. Not even an officer.”
“It’ll fizzle out when he keeps going off to get killed, Mr Tremain. A mug’s game.”
But it didn’t fizzle out and it continued to drive Daz mad with jealousy. His sociopathic tendencies re-wrote the truth and it had been the fucking pongo, Mark Edge who had turned Moira’s head and split her up from Daz. They were even planning to get married, until she went to that wedding and Edge stole her off him. If he had been there… Well it would never have happened.
Just before the wedding, Frank Tremain spoke with Daz again, “It’s this Saturday, Daniel. I hope you’ll come to the evening do at the hotel. I’ll need some friends around me, to help me through a day I’m dreading. Bring your mates.”
Daz needed no second bidding and had a word with Paulie and Steve, asking if they wanted to tag along.
“There may be some argie-bargie,” Daz told them, “Coz after all, it wouldn’t be a proper wedding without at least one fight.”
And Daz and his posse turned up at the hotel, pre-loaded and itching for a fight. But what made him incautiously angry the minute he walked through the door was the sight of a handsome man, totally at ease and chatting with two of Daz’s exes, Angela and Moira. He sought out Frank Tremain slightly before Moira did.
“Who’s the joker who was sitting with Moira and Angela?”
“Henry Morrison, the best man, although that’s a matter of opinion. The bashful groom is over there at the bar.”
Daz and the team sauntered over to get some drinks. He looked at Edge and made his acquaintance with a particularly insincere smile.
“So you’re the lucky groom eh?
“You are?”
“Daz,” he didn’t offer his hand to shake. Neither did Edge, “Lucky, lucky you. Me and Mo used to be a bit of an item.”
“So I believe,” Edge said evenly.
“I hear that you and Mo are staying at some place in Weare Gifford.” Edge said nothing.
“And that your new wife is staying in it all alone when you go back to the Army. Puts a lot of strain on a marriage does that.”
“Are you fucking Marjorie Proops?”
“Just saying, that’s all. Keep your hair on. I’m sure she’ll be well looked after.”
“I tell you what, Daz. It’ll be me giving Moira a good old looking after tonight and long, long nights to come. You must excuse me while I mingle.”
Daz ordered the beers and the posse took up station at the end of the bar, “Well lads, we’re a bit spoiled for choice tonight, but the groom gets his second. We’ll do the best man first. I’ll need to rile him up a bit to get the party started.”
They bided their time, getting steadily more drunk and Daz spotted his opportunity when Morrison got up to refill his and Angela’s glasses at the bar. He swaggered over to the table and sat down next to Angela.
“Piss off, Daz.”
“Now that’s not very nice, Ange.”
“I’ve told you, don’t call me that. Why did you have to come here?”
“Mo’s dad invited me. And I had to come, because after all, he is my boss.”
When Morrison went back to the table with the drinks, Daz was sitting next to Angela, who was looking uncomfortable. Daz put his hand on her forearm and she dragged it away sharply.
“I really don’t think the lady is appreciating your attention, Mr Copeland.”
“Piss off, Pongo. You don’t come from here,” Daz said and tried to kiss Angela who slapped him across the face.
“Bitch!”
Morrison grabbed a fistful of Daz’s curly hair and bent down close to his face. He said quietly so the girl couldn’t hear, “You and me outside now, you bastard!”
Daz watched him leave the function room and head for the exit corridor. He smiled at Angela and winked.
“This shouldn’t take too long. Keep yourself nice and warm for me. Then it’ll be Mr Edge’s turn, followed by Moira. Fancy a threesome?”
“Pig!”
He collected Paulie and Steve and they headed swiftly down the corridor, past the pool for the hotel’s back door. They caught up just as Morrison went through the closed fire doors ahead of them. Daz was leading and as he went to push through, the fire doors, they burst open. A heavy door caught Daz above the eye, a contusion that was white and became rapidly suffused with purple blood.
Daz became entangled with one of his wingmen and went down. Morrison went down on top of him like a cat and smashed the heel of his right hand into Daz’s face, three times in quick succession, aiming for the sensitive area under his nose, the philtrum. He had never seen anyone move with such violence and speed before and he felt the roots of his front teeth shatter. His mouth was full of splinters of dentine, enamel and blood and it felt like a bomb had gone off in his head. He heard, but couldn’t register the words that Morrison hissed into his face:
“Listen to me, you piece of Pikey shit. If Moira Edge or Angela are touched, hurt or looked at in the wrong way, I’m coming back here and I’m going to kill you very slowly. Do you understand, Daz?”
Eventually his wingmen dragged him outside and the cold air hit his shattered incisal roots like liquid nitrogen. Crying with pain, they drove him to the North Devon District Hospital, where the fragments of three of his upper incisors were removed under topical anaesthetic. The duty registrar was incapable of performing an injection with local anaesthetic and there’s a definite knack in locating the incisal papilla in such a mangled mouth, had he known what he was looking for. After a few months while the swelling and infection subsided, Daz was fitted with a cobalt chrome skeleton denture as he couldn’t afford implants. Poor Daz was destined to be a martyr to his anterior maxillary region and his anterior nasal spine, courtesy of his own mental afflictions, his own erratic behaviour and members and former members of the British Army. The Oral and Maxillo-Facial department of the North Devon District Hospital would gain valuable teaching time and case studies. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

*

Daz was slipping into mental illness. It had been caused by Frank Tremain employing Mark Edge when he left the Army and the fact Moira was further beyond his grasp than ever, now Edge was home full time. He couldn’t actively carry out his toxic fantasies, yet, but he could and did undermine Mark Edge at every available opportunity. As a senior now in the business, he ensured that Edge was allocated the worst jobs, the worst vehicles and the most useless co-workers. If Edge did something right, someone else did it. If anything went wrong it was Edges fault. One afternoon after everyone had left, Daz was chatting with Frank Tremain.
“Mr T, I know you had your reasons for employing him, but Mark Edge is bloody useless. He just can’t be trusted to do a proper job”
Frank Tremain who rather liked being called Mr T, sighed, “It’s very difficult for me Daniel, seeing as how he’s my son-in-law, although God knows, I wish he wasn’t. Why don’t we give him until next New Year, see if he’s improved and get rid of him then. It’ll mean that Moira can’t say I never gave him a chance.”
That August, almost driven mad with jealous frustration, Daz hatched a plot to make sure Edge was well out of the way, so he could take what was rightfully his, Moira Edge, nee Tremain. Frank Tremain mentioned in passing that Moira was off work and Edge was earmarked for delivering some animal feed and assorted farm machinery spares to St Ives, in a truck that was so dilapidated it would be lucky to get there and back without breaking down. The following afternoon, Daz drove to the Edge’s cottage on the Torridge with the sole intention of raping Moira. He wheedled himself into the cottage with the pretence of seeing how she was and asking for a drink.
Once inside, fuelled with lust and hate, Daz pounced. It should have been easy except for a mangy, fucking tabby cat, a jar of flour and a bread knife. Moira he was certain, was going to kill him, that hot afternoon. Daz got away, but by now the toxicity of his thoughts were out of his control. He would kill them both, Edge first then Moira, but first he would teach her not to defy him.
On New Year’s Eve, Daz had been drinking since lunchtime with his posse in a pub on Bideford’s waterfront. Mark Edge had also been drinking, alone with his thoughts, while Moira and her family had a meal with Tremain and Co’s senior management. They were all due to meet up in the Hoppers Inn and County Hotel for a work function. Edge was drinking to anaesthetise the anxiety and doubt he had been feeling since August, when he discovered strange bruises on Moira’s intimate areas. He was convinced she was having an affair with Daz Copeland. While Daz had his sociopathy, Edge had his anxiety and anger.

Daz also had a fishing knife with an 8” blade with a serrated top edge. It had been honed as sharp as a razor. It was for the Edges, Daz told his posse. They were too drunk to persuade him that it wasn’t a good idea in front of so many potential witnesses. He was beyond caring anyway.
In the Hoppers Inn, Daz intercepted Moira and steered her to a table, away from the lights and the groups of revellers. He showed Moira the knife and laughed.
“I know you have a liking for knives, Moira. But this one’s better than your stupid bread knife 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.”
When Edge arrived and saw his wife sitting alone in a secluded spot with Daz, his heart lurched. His doubts and anxiety had been proved, but he wasn’t going down without a fight.
“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.”
“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.
“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?”
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 a distraction to get away, but Edge moved impossibly fast and smashed his forehead into Daz’s nose and mouth as he stood up level. For the second time a bomb exploded inside Daz’s head like JDAM penetrating a cave. Daz felt nothing more for over forty-eight hours when he woke up in the acute care ward of his favourite hospital. His head was swathed in bandages, from which protruded a drain and a nasal oxygen line.
“Dearie, dearie me, Mr Copeland, we have been in the wars,” the maxillo-facial consultant said to Daz sympathetically, “I’m afraid we’re going to get to know each other rather well over the next few months.

*

His rage was all consuming and as soon as he could get his life back on track, he would settle the score with the Edges. Things were falling into place. Edge had been sacked after the court case and Moira had left him, moving back in with her parents. But in the May of that year, Daz had an altercation with a motor home on one of North Devon’s narrow lanes. Frustrated by the crawling, tourist vehicle Daz had forced his way past in his 4×4 and ended up ramming the motor home into a hedge. In the following road rage incident, Daz beat the driver into a coma in front of the man’s wife and disabled daughter. The incident was filmed by a dash camera in the car that had been following. Daz, despite his good character references was sentenced to eighteen months.
While he was in prison, he missed the disappearance of Mark Edge, his probable involvement in the murder of a human rights lawyer and the theory that Mark Edge had drowned himself off the coast of the Algarve. When he left prison, Daz had lost his job, much to Frank Tremain’s regret. Daz maintained an obsession with Moira and through contacts who still worked in Tremain and Co, he kept tabs on the boss’s daughter. Moira had moved into a flat in Oakhampton with her kids so it would be impossible to do anything while she was there. He even followed her to and from work and again anything he contemplated would be too risky.
He waited four years after Edge had disappeared, then he heard that Moira had made peace with her parents. While her mother and father took Francis to see a show in London, Moira would stay in her parents’ house for the weekend. Sarah was far too old to babysit her mother, which was a pity. At fifteen, she was eminently fuckable in Daz’s eyes. Moira would be alone in that large, rambling house, Daz had lost all sense of restraint and his revenge had been a long time coming.
At 17:20 on the Saturday night, the bell rang on her parent’s door. Moira opened it and her bowels turned to water.
“Hello, Mo. It’s been a long time.”

*

Just before midnight that Saturday night, Angela’s phone rang in her house in Torrington.
“Hello?”
“Angela, it’s me, Moira. You know where my mum and dad live? Please come now. It’s very important.”
Moira sounded like she was having difficulty in speaking,
“Moira, are you all right?”
“No, please just come.”

*

Moira’s left eye was fully closed, her lower lip was split and she had dark bruises around her neck. Her wrists were raw from where he had tied her. He had bitten her breasts and burned her with the many joints he had consumed. She could barely walk. Angela was crying and sobbing with anguish, but Moira was beyond that.
“You have to go to the police,” Angela said between sobs.
“No! I’m not going to be violated by them through the courts. He will drag everything out and insist that I’m cross-examined. He’ll tell the world that I was his girlfriend and what we used to do. It’s beyond that now.”
“Have you had a shower, you know, evidence.”
“Course I bloody have. I wanted to wash every trace of that filthy bastard off me.”
“Are you sure it was him?”
Moira held up a Zippo lighter, “Daz. See? He dropped it.”
“Oh, Moira, I’m so sorry.”
“What the bloody hell do you have to be sorry for? Just help me put some vinegar on these bites and burns and then I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.”
“Vinegar?”
“Yes, Edge swears… Swore by vinegar,” a single tear ran down Moira’s cheek.
And she did, “You’re still bleeding, from…”
“Just get on with it.”
Later they had tea, heavily laced with Frank’s best Remy Martin XO cognac. There was a strange look in Moira’s eye, the one that was open. She had stopped shaking by now and when she spoke, her voice was icy with determination.
“Angela. I want you to listen to me, don’t palm me off or treat me like an idiot. I’m lucky to still be alive. He lost his nerve when the phone rang, probably my mother worrying about something. He will come back and kill me or one of the kids. He could kill you as well. He is batshit, fucking mental.
“Tell Henry… No don’t fucking start. Tell Henry everything. And get him to speak to Mark. Everything. Don’t miss out anything. Give Henry the lighter and get him to tell Mark what he’s done to me. Tell Mark that he was right. We should have done it his way a long time ago. Please Angela, I’m begging you. Just tell them before it’s too late.”

*

A man whose passport identified him as Andrew Poulsom, was woken in the early hours of Sunday morning. He was in Romania providing security consultancy to a Romanian Oil company. He recognised the voice and listened to the long, one-sided conversation intently. His face betrayed no emotion, but the muscles in the forearm holding the mobile phone writhed like a snake. When he spoke, his voice was expressionless.
“I’ll be back on the first flight I can get today, if not, tomorrow,” the man calling himself Poulsom said.
“Where will I meet you?”
“The Bear, Devizes. I’ll book a room in Calne or Chippenham.”
“Do you want me to have the Ink Spots stand to?”
“No. You and I should be able to deal with it. I should have dealt with it years ago.”
The silence on the other end of the phone was not accusatory. In truth there was little to say. Poulsom reeled out a list, some items in clear, others coded to avoid the ever snooping ears of GCHQ.
“This is what I think we’ll need. Add anything you think I’ve missed.”
“See you sometime today or tomorrow.”
“God willing.”

*

His paranoia knew no bounds. Daz was expecting the police to come for him at any time, and he was ready for them. He had drunk himself sober and even the skunk seemed to have no effect. Somehow he knew that it would be tonight and he gripped the sawn-off shotgun like it was a lucky charm, a talisman.
Did Daz have any regrets? In truth he was incapable of feeling remorse, but he had plenty of regrets. He should have kept Glen’s bike instead of throwing it into the quarry. It had been a good bike. He should have killed Moira Tremain when she first defied him and he certainly should have finished the job instead of panicking when the phone rang. He should have done Tina’s cat in front of her, then Tina. Now even his posse had deserted him, because they said he was out of control, but they were just gutless bastards. And as the shadows grew longer and darkness fell across the wooded valley of the Torridge, Daz thought about all of the people who had let him down over the years, starting with his mother and father.
In the small hours Daz heard movement outside, imperceptible, like an animal. Fox? Deer? He slowly sat up and pointed the shotgun at the door. The window broke and a green cylinder skittered across the floor. There was a boom and a blinding white light, followed by a deafening high-pitched screaming. Daz ran to the door, wrenched it open and fired blindly into the night with one barrel of the shotgun. He was silhouetted by the light from inside the house and he had still not got his night sight back, when a 9mm hollow point round destroyed his right kneecap. He slumped against the door frame but managed to keep hold of the shotgun.
He saw a figure about fifteen yards away in the darkness that seemed to stop his heart and take his breath away. It looked like a cavalry man from the English Civil war, complete with boots, buff coat and some kind of helmet and face covering. Bellowing with pain, Daz raised the shotgun and fired at the figure. He definitely hit it, because he saw it sway under the impact of the birdshot pellets. The figure raised its arm, which seemed to be holding a snub automatic that was inside a strong, clear polythene bag. There was no aiming required, thousands of rounds and hours spent in the Killing House and the forty fired up on Dartmoor the day before, made aiming superfluous. Daz’s left kneecap went the way of the first. With a scream he went down and tried to drag himself back into the house. The figure was unhurried as it slowly walked towards him. Daz looked backwards over his shoulder, whimpering in pain and terror.
“Top tip. Bird shot is only good for birds. You should have used deer shot.”
“Who are you?”
The figure removed its helmet and face mask, while the extremely stubby and truncated automatic pistol inside its bag was pointed in the vicinity of Daz’s crotch.
“You’re dead! You’re fucking dead!”
“I’m a ghost. Where are your car keys?”
“Fuck you!”
He put a motorcycle boot on Daz’s bloodied right kneecap and applied moderate pressure. He waited for the screaming to stop.
“I won’t ask nicely again.”
“Kitchen… Hanging up.”
He returned holding the keys up and jingling them, then put the automatic in a pocket of the strange coat and dragged Daz outside by his feet. This was accompanied by much screaming and it took a while because he was a big fellow. He passed out with the pain before they reached the outhouse where the Honda generator was thrumming away. The figure started Daz’s Ute and backed it up to the door of the outhouse. He unscrewed the Ute’s petrol cap and put a length of reinforced plastic pipe from the vehicle to the generator’s fuel tank. He fetched a jerry can of petrol and waited for Daz to regain consciousness. Eventually Daz started groaning with pain and fear.
“Why are you doing this?”
“Oh Daz, I think you know very well why,” He held up a Zippo lighter, “Finders keepers?”
He poured petrol over the back of the Ute, inside the outhouse and all over Daz, who was crying and begging for his life.
“You see, what we’ve got here is one of those unfortunate accidents. A man drunk and out of his brains and higher than a giraffe’s bollocks on skunk, tries to refill his generator while it’s still running. “
“Please, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“Which as we all know, is just asking for trouble. I don’t really want this lighter. You have it.”
He flicked the Zippo open and lit it in a practiced action. He tossed it into the outhouse and walked away. The screaming began after the initial whump of the igniting petrol. It took a long time before Daz’s larynx was burned away and by that time the heat had contracted the tendons in his arms and legs and drawn his body into the pugilist attitude.
The figure walked away down the track and a motor bike started down by the road. A second figure with a powerful hand-held spotlight appeared out of the darkness by the trees. It was a man dressed like a scene of crime officer, with a blue coverall, hair and boot protection and gloves. He meticulously swept the area on hands and knees, picking up any other scraps of twigs or material. The two empty cases had been caught in the polythene bag. He swept the line in the mud where Daz had been dragged into the outhouse. Inside the house he picked up the empty shell and the fusing mechanism of the stun grenade and dug out a hollow point, flattened bullet from the hallway wall. Of the other there was no sign and he had no intention of seeing if was still in what was left of Daz, which by now was very little. By the time he’d finished, the outhouse and burning vehicle were like a furnace and the flames had spread to the rest of the house. He walked half a mile to where a car was parked off the road and in the trees, stripped off the coverall and put them in a holdall in the boot.
Ten miles away he collected a similar holdall from a lay-by. He drove north to a small town, parked up the car and went to where a small boat was moored next to a slipway. It was a cruiser, about fifteen feet with a small wheelhouse. He started the engine and headed for the darkness and the open sea. Two miles out, he put two breeze blocks in each holdall and lugged them over the side. As he motored back, the dawn was beginning to break and he sang tunelessly.
Ooooohhhhhh that’s the way a-huh, a-huh, I like it, a-huh, a-huh…
A man was waiting for him and helped him moor the boat. He jumped ashore and they headed for two cars parked together. It was still very early and no one was about.
“Is it over?”
“Yes, Frank. He’s gone.”
“How will I ever be able to look Moira in the face again?”
“She’s still your daughter and you’re still her father.”
“I’ve been so bloody stupid. How could I have allowed this to happen?”
“It’s what they do, Frank. But they can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
“Do you think he’ll come back? Moira misses him terribly.”
He had to think about who he was talking about, “He’s dead. Remember that should anyone ask. But one day I’m sure he will, once he’s exorcised his own demons.”
“What about you, Henry?”
“Henry’s dead as well. Remember? But I’m going to go and see Moira’s oppo, Angela and ask her a question I should have asked her years ago.”
 

© Blown Periphery 2018
 

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