War Crimes Part Twenty-Nine – Edge, The Skeletal Grasp From The Past

Blown Periphery, Going Postal

Day 4

Horace Cutler was as irritable as a hungry grizzly bear with haemorrhoids the following morning and he was in no mood for any self-pity from Edge.
“Did you have breakfast this morning, son, because it’s going to be a bloody day in the trenches?”
“Yes, Mr Cutler.”
“Your mother sends her love. I told her that yesterday was not as expected and we had a few setbacks…”
“Huh, a few?”
Cutler took off his pince-nez and glared at Edge, “She also told me to tell you not to be downhearted, because whatever happens, they can’t make you pregnant.”
Edge smiled ruefully, “It’s very good of you to speak with her, Mr Cutler. I don’t suppose my father gives a toss one way or the other.”
“I also spoke with my witness last night and she will take the stand first thing this morning. And then this afternoon it will be Herr Brauer’s turn. I sincerely hope that he doesn’t try and play games with me. Or Ms Campbell for that matter.”
Cutler’s first witness was a German woman of early middle age. She took the oath in accented English on the Lutheran Bible. Cutler seemed to treat her in a decorous manner.
“Could you tell the court martial your name please?”
“Edda Schuster.”
“Ms Schuster you ever met my client, Lance-corporal Edge?”
“No sir, but I would like to shake his hand.”
“Would you please tell the court what happened to you and your fiancée on the evening of 24th September 1985.”
“My fiancée was Timothy Nowell, he was English and worked for the Stadtsparkasse Bank, commuting between Bielefeld and London. He was an avid Charlton Athletic fan. I don’t much care for football, but Charlton were playing DSC Armenia Bielefeld and he persuaded me to come with him to watch the game. We were outside the Schüco Arena and there were a lot of English fans as well. Some of them were quite drunk as this was an evening match. It was noisy, but there were few fights, and lots of Landespolizei.
“There was some trouble from the DSC fans, so Timothy suggested we try to get into the ground at another entrance. We went round the back of the Almhalle where it was much quieter and I think Timothy was ready to say forget it, even though he had tickets. As we walked past a policeman, Timothy said something to me about “this one likes to stay away from the action,” because this end side of the stadium was so quiet.
“The next thing, the policeman dragged Timothy away from me and started to hit him over the head and shoulders with a thin bar of steel. I tried to intervene, but he hit me on my shoulders and I couldn’t lift my arms up. He carried on hitting Timothy, even when he was on the ground until he stopped moving, then the policeman just hurried off around the corner as though nothing had happened.”
Edda Schuster started to cry and Cutler paused while she composed herself, “What happened to your fiancée, Ms Schuster?”
“Timothy was taken to hospital in an ambulance and was put on life support as soon as he got there. He had a brain injury and couldn’t breathe on his own. After two weeks he hadn’t regained consciousness and the doctors said he was in a condition, I don’t know how to say it in English.”
“A persistent vegetative state?”
“Yes and after four weeks it became permanent and under German law, they switched off the life support machines, even though Timothy was English. I never got to speak ever again to him, to tell him how much I loved him. He went from me outside that football stadium and he was murdered by a member of the Landespolizei.”
“Do you know the name of the policeman who assaulted your fiancée?”
“Brauer.”
“How do you know his name?”
“Because when I put the complaint in against him, my lawyer insisted on an identity parade of all police that had been on duty that evening and I identified him.”
Cutler showed her a photograph, “Is this him?”
“Yes.”
“Did you attempt to bring Brauer to justice?”
“Yes, with the help of a civil rights lawyer who specialised in cases of police brutality, but there were no witnesses and other police said that Brauer had been with them outside another part of the stadium. The case was dismissed by the Federal prosecutor.”
“Indeed. Thank you, Ms Schuster. I realise that this must be an ordeal for you and I thank you for your bravery. Something is rotten in the heart of the Landespolizei . My learned friend’s witness,” Cutler couldn’t even be bothered to address the defence council directly.
Ms Campbell stood up and knew that she would have to play this witness very carefully. She would start gently, find a weakness then start probing, but she had misjudged Edda Schuster.
“Ms Schuster, can I just echo my learned friend’s comments and thank you for attending this court martial. I am somewhat of a loss as to why he asked you to appear as witness, as the facts of this case speak for themselves. However, if I could just ask you about the evening you have told us about, what sort of mood were you and your sadly deceased fiancée in?” Edda Schuster’s eyes narrowed, “For example, were you happy, in fine fettle so to speak?”
“Are you implying that we were drunk like many of the other English football fans? No we were not. Are you implying that we provoked Herr Brauer in some way? No we did not. Do you think my beloved fiancée deserved to die having machines pump the air in and out of his body? No he did not. I have gone up against the German Federal Constitutional Court, not some minor, military irrelevance to try a very junior soldier, for an act he frankly deserves a medal for doing. I am not on trial here. I will not have you rake through my personal tragedy to make yourself feel important.”
There was shocked silence in the court martial room. Ms Campbell was both figuratively and literally rocked back on her heels. The silence stretched out and all eyes were on either Ms Campbell or Edda Schuster. All those except Horace Cutler QC who was doodling on a pad. He had drawn a pig sweating in a boiling cauldron, a pig wearing a Landespolizei cap.
The Judge Advocate looked at Edda Schuster’s set and angry face and then at the defence council, “Ms Campbell?”
Eventually she composed herself, “Thank you, Judge. Given the witness’s demeanour, I see little point in cross-examining her at this time. No further questions.”
“Thank you, Ms Schuster, you may go.”
As she left the witness stand, Edda Schuster locked eyes with Edge. Despite her angry tears, he saw something in her gaze. Not hostility, not sadness, something else. It was gratitude and he felt his spirits lift. He smiled at her sadly and she was past and gone.
During the recess, Cutler couldn’t stomach making pleasantries with Ms Campbell so he brought Edge a cup of coffee and they chatted in the interview room. Over the days they had grown quite close and there was something not quite representing council/client about their relationship. When she had come to see him in his Lincoln chambers, Cutler had listened to Mrs Edge describe her son with healthy scepticism, but she had been right, there was something remarkable about him. There was also something hidden, something of the night about the young soldier who seemed much older than his years.
“Where did you find her, Mr Cutler? She was bloody Semtex.”
“My young friend, I’m not only good, I’m the bloody best. The reason I’m the best is I don’t waste my time finding out what pillars of the community you lot are. You are all invariably dreadful, drunken scrotes, so I have my little elves who work for me in chambers, dig around the periphery of a case. They have been doing a lot of digging on Herr Brauer. If you think the wonderful Ms Schuster was Semtex, wait until this afternoon. Ms Campbell thinks this will all be done and dusted by late lunchtime. She’s in for another shock.”
“I thought you were doing a job and never let personal feelings get in the way of your professional relationships.”
“Ordinarily that’s the case, but because of the way she treated your, if I may say so, lovely beyond measure Alicia Meredith, it’s become rather personal.”
They stood up to go back into court, but Cutler hesitated, “Edge, do you mind if I ask you a personal question. It will have no bearing on your case. You don’t even have to answer. I know you were defending yourself and Scooby bloody Do, but did you intend to cause so much damage to that German copper?”
“I’m sorry Mr Cutler, but yes I did.”
“Good lad!”

*

Dieter Brauer came into the court on crutches and with his leg externally braced with a composite plastic support, which stretched from mid-thigh to mid-calf. He had a chair and his own table, thoughtfully provided by the court and Cutler was attentiveness itself. He ensured the German policeman was comfortable, could stretch his leg and had somewhere to stow his crutches. Brauer took the oath on the Lutheran Bible.
“Now if at any time your leg causes you pain, please be sure to let us know and we will pause proceedings.”
Because Brauer had informed the court he didn’t speak English, a German translator relayed what Cutler had said, “Polizeiobermeister Brauer, are you still a member of the Landespolizei?”
“Until such time as my disability pension is finalised,” relayed the translator.
This is going to take for ever, Cutler thought and decided to move the pace up a little.
“Polizeiobermeister Brauer, why did you have my client, Lance-corporal Edge beaten up while he was in your colleagues’ custody, in Gütersloh police station?”
It was like a grenade had cone off in the court. The Judge Advocate recoiled and Ms Campbell was up and out of her seat like a Minuteman out of its silo.
“Judge I really must protest!”
But Cutler ignored them. He was watching Herr Brauer very closely. Don’t speak any English eh, you lying bastard.
“Judge, please forgive me, but I was trying to establish if Polizeiobermeister Brauer understands any spoken English and indeed he does. And furthermore, I speak German rather better than the court’s translator speaks English. I would suggest that I question the witness in German and translate for the court. It would save a great deal of time. What my learned friend does is entirely up to her.”
The judge agreed and once again, Cutler had stamped his authority over the court, but more importantly, over the witness.” I am asking Polizeiobermeister Brauer, how long have you served in the Landespolizei?”
“Twenty-five years.”
“A long and distinguished service, and yet you are a Polizeiobermeister, a senior constable. Not exactly a meteoric rise up the ranks, is it?”
Predictably the prosecution objected to the line of questioning, when he translated for the court, but Cutler moved on smoothly. He did however notice a slight tick on the side of the German’s face.
“Could your less than glittering career be due to your propensity for violence, Polizeiobermeister Brauer?” Cutler thought Ms Campbell was going to have fit, so he addressed the Judge Advocate, “Judge, I am attempting to show the court that Herr Brauer is a less than credible witness, and it is a reasonable line of questioning, despite my learned friend’s constant interruptions.”
“Very well, carry on, Mr Cutler, but be careful and remember the sensitivities of the host nation.”
Cutler went over to the exhibits table and picked up the asp. He placed it on the table in front of Brauer, “Would you like to tell me what this is, Polizeiobermeister Brauer?”
The German shrugged, “I’ve never seen it before.”
“Really, one of the witnesses who saw you assault Lance-corporal Edge says that she picked it up when you dropped it.”
Brauer chuckled, “She is mistaken, whoever she is. And it was that soldier who assaulted me. Whatever that thing is, it isn’t police issue.”
“And yet three witnesses have testified under oath that they saw you using it with much aplomb and two of them have sworn under oath that they received injuries from it, that weapon, which was being wielded by you. Why would they say that, Polizeiobermeister Brauer?”
Brauer shrugged again, a gesture that Cutler was beginning to find extremely irritating, “They were drunk.”
“Was SAC Scotton drunk when you were beating him on the ground?”
“Who is Ess Aih See Scotton?”
Cutler moved from behind his table and started to pace. In the short time Edge had known him, he could tell that Cutler was angry.
“Of course you would never agree to provide a sample of your DNA, so we could prove beyond reasonable doubt that you have never touched the asp on the table in front of you.
Brauer actually smiled. You Boche bastard.
“And why would Edda Schuster lie under oath for a British soldier she had never seen before? Did you enjoy beating her fiancée to death?”
“Oh for heaven’s sake! I object in the strongest possible terms. The witness is not being tried in this court martial.”
This time the Judge Advocate had to agree with Ms Campbell and intervened, “Mr Cutler. You have dug this seam for some time now and nothing further seems to be forthcoming. Either come to your point or conclude this line of questioning.”
“Judge, I am concerned that this case might be fatiguing for the witness. I was hoping to resume after the lunchtime recess.”
The Judge Advocate sighed, “Will this take long, Mr Cutler and if not, ask Herr Brauer if he minds continuing?”
Cutler duly did.
“No, not at all. I’m rather enjoying this.”
Cutler peered at him, “In which case, Herr Brauer, you’d better fasten your seatbelt because this is going to be a bumpy ride.” He didn’t translate this for the benefit of the court.
Cutler opened his briefcase and handed out four folders, one to the Judge Advocate, one to Ms Campbell one to the German and one to the board.
“Polizeiobermeister Brauer, I’m not going to ask you why you hate English people so much, particularly those in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, because I already know why.
“You are rather proud of your family history are you not? Your father who died heroically at Seelow in 1945, defending the Reich. It must have been so cruel for you as a child of five, to have your father snatched away in the last weeks of the Second World War. At least you have the knowledge that your father died nobly defending the Reich. What was his regiment, Polizeiobermeister Brauer?”
“303rd Infantry Division,” Brauer said, but he looked uncomfortable.
“And his body was never found among the tens of thousands who died on the Heights. Judge, Gentlemen of the Board and Herr Brauer, kindly open your folders and have a look at the top photograph.”
The photograph showed seven German SS Officers standing for a posed photograph, in front of a series of wooden single-story huts. “Herr Brauer, which one of these fine, upstanding specimens of the Master Race is your father?”
“None of them.”
Cutler took off his glasses for dramatic effect, “Really? Are you sure? Let me help you. That officer standing second from the left in the greatcoat is you father isn’t he?”
“No!”
“He is in fact Untersturmführer Adalhard Günther. Your father and mother registered your birth in 1940 and you were baptised as Clemens Günther. If I can draw the court’s attention to the next document, which is the register of births for March 1940 from Buchholz in der Nordheide. And there you are Herr Brauer, or should I say Günther, fifth name from the top. Thank heavens for German efficiency at record keeping. If your birth had been registered in Hamburg, the records would almost certainly have been destroyed in the bombing, and no one would have been any the wiser.
“You see, your dear old Dad managed to raise quite a bit of interest due to his military service if I could dare to call it that. In fact the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles has quite a file on your father and indeed you and your mother by association. I must thank the Centre for their kind cooperation in this case.
“Your father did not die a heroic death at the Seelow Heights and the furthest east he served was in Belzec Extermination Camp. In fact that photograph with his chums was taken in 1943 at Chlemno Death Camp.”
Cutler paused and looked at Braurer, who now had a noticeable shake, “So why do you hate the English military so much, Herr Günther? Is it because when the British Army liberated Nauengamer Concentration Camp in 1945, a dispatch rider from the Royal Corps of Transport, a Corporal Alfie Mullins was so incensed with what he saw, that he didn’t take kindly to your father trying to pass himself off as one of the inmates? Do you hate them so much because your father tried to remonstrate with a lowly corporal, when he knew the game was up? And that corporal drew his pistol and shot your father through the head, twice for good measure. You hate the British military, particularly the English, because your father was a gutless swine. A mass murderer of women and children. A lowlife Nazi who got his comeuppance from a bloody lowly corporal.”
“No!”
“Your mother took you north and across the border into Denmark, and a few months after the final surrender of Nazi forces, the pair of you re-crossed the border back into Germany, where you posed as displaced persons with no ID documents. And you became Dieter Brauer. And all would have been well apart from your father’s disgusting war record and the long memory and reach of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
“Timothy Nowell just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You thought he was in the military, so you beat him to death. Your life and police career is built on a lie and the bodies of emaciated concentration camp victims. You are a vile piece of ordure and you are not fit to clean the boots of my client, Lance-corporal Edge.”
Cutler translated for the court, almost hurled his pince-nez on the table and without bother to look at her, snapped at Ms Campbell, “Your witness!”
To her credit, she did try to extricate the faeces from out of the fan, but Cutler had eviscerated the main prosecution witness. The mangled phrases from the translator didn’t help and by the end of it, former Polizeiobermeister Brauer was on the verge of a breakdown and the German police observers had left the court. Edge looked as stunned as Brauer.
The court took a late lunch and re-assembled at 14:30 for Edge’s sentencing. Cutler had wisely taken himself off on his own, where he pondered who he was most angry with. The German policeman for his lies and violence, or Ms Campbell for making him destroy the man in court.
Edge was standing with a military escort as the Judge Advocate made the final comments and pronounced sentence. The members of the board were looking at Edge in a kindly manner and Scooby and Alicia were in the spectators’ area, allowed back in court now that all the evidence had been heard. The Judge Advocate looked at Edge, his face deadpan.
“Lance-corporal Mark Edge, by your own admission you assaulted a member of the German Landespolizei known as Polizeiobermeister Brauer. Assault of a police officer going about his lawful duty is a serious offence, which carries a mandatory two-year sentence of imprisonment and a dishonourable discharge from the Army. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir.”
“However, in this case there is more than a reasonable doubt that Polizeiobermeister Brauer was actually carrying out his lawful duty and that you may have acted in justifiable self-defence. Some may say that your actions were selfless and courageous, however, military law stands and you have admitted to incapacitating Polizeiobermeister Brauer.
“Lance-corporal Edge. This court finds you guilty by your own admission of assaulting Polizeiobermeister Brauer. There must be a custodial sentence and I have weighed up the evidence and circumstances of the case. You will be escorted to the Military Corrective Training Centre where you will serve a period of twenty-eight days and you are hereby reduced to the rank of private. You will not be discharged from the Army and I wish you well in your future career.”
There was an undercurrent in the court as Edge was marched out. Twenty-eight days was a calculated insult to the German police. It was the same sentence as for going AWOL or being drunk on duty. Edge caught Alicia’s eye as he marched past and he smiled sadly as her eyes glistened. Scooby was grinning like an idiot.
As the court emptied, Cutler gathered up his paperwork. He felt hollow and empty, almost like Wellington on the night of the battle of Waterloo. Ms Campbell came across to him.
“Horace…”
“I did warn you not to play games.”
“If it’s any consolation, I’m glad that he effectively got off it.”
“The idiot should have just gone back into the bar. There’s being noble and there’s being stupid.”

*

That evening after he had packed for the flight back to England the following day, Cutler made a phone call. The call was answered by a man with a gruff, West-Midlands accent.
“Good evening, Mr Edge. Could I speak with your wife please, unless you are interested on today’s court case?”
“Not particularly. I’ll get her.”
There was a pause and the background noise of the phone being picked up, “Hello, Mr Cutler?”
“It went well. I couldn’t get him off it completely. But less than a month inside, reduced to the ranks and he can stay in the Army. No great drama for a lance-jack. Most of them have their stripe velcroed on because they’re on and off all the time. It won’t affect his career.”
“Oh Mr Cutler, I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
“It was my pleasure, Ma’am.”
“Thank you, thank you.”
He could tell she was crying.
“Mrs Edge. Please don’t worry too much about my fees. Pay me when you can, what you can.”
“Mr Cutler…”
“Goodbye, Ma’am. It was a pleasure to have met you and your son.”
 

© Blown Periphery 2018
 

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