They barely paid him any attention because nobody wears their cloaks of invisibility as effectively as London’s homeless. Edge was at his OP on the south-east corner of Lincoln’s Inn Fields where he could watch the taxi traffic coming from the various railway stations such as Fenchurch and Liverpool Streets. He had quartered the surrounding underground stations and knew that Ron Gleam did not arrive at the offices of The Community Legal Notaries on foot. He suspected he came to the office by taxi, accessed by the lane behind Serle Street with its automatic barriers.
It was Edge’s third week living on the streets and while he was operating with the absolute basics of kit to support and sustain survival, he had put as much research into homeless living as he had to tracking down Ron Gleam. The London streets were at least as dangerous as many of the places Edge had visited, with the possible exception of Juarez City in Mexico.
He made the mistake of sleeping in a stairwell near Waterloo station one night. It had looked safe, didn’t smell too badly of stale urine, but even within the homeless there are crime syndicates, bottom feeders feeding on other bottom feeders. But mainly the driving factor is money for drugs. The two of them had spotted Edge a couple of days before and followed him. He didn’t look right to their expert eyes. Boots too good a quality and outer layers too clean. Expensive and Gucci gear and if he could afford them, he would have money on him. The stairwell was their domain.
There would be no subtlety, just a good old fashioned bludgeoning with a brick. If he put up any struggle, the trusty wingman was ready with the knife. They gave him plenty of time to drop into deep sleep and moved in. The brick was raised over Edge’s head and the Fairburn-Sykes knife thrust upwards, piercing the would-be assailant’s wrist and destroying the radial nerve, tendons and the carpal tunnel. He screamed and dropped the brick. Edge twisted the knife as he kicked out. The screaming was louder this time. Even with the sleeping and bivvy bags, the force was sufficient to crush the second aggressor’s nasal septum. But he still had his knife.
Edge was encumbered by the sleeping bags and the second man raised his knife, aiming for the groin area. Edge leaned forwards, changed his grip on the knife and stabbed upwards into the armpit and the axillary artery. The second man merely grunted and as he slid out of the sleeping bag, Edge open-handed slapped the first attacker on his right ear, perforating his eardrum.
“I reckon you’ve got about fifteen minutes to get to Guy’s hospital, before you bleed to death, Pal,” Edge told the second assailant, gathering up his kit and then he was gone.
He had established a routine and conducted surveillance to try and find his target between 07:00 and 10:00. Then he would sleep in the undergrowth of one of the parks until around 15:30. It was cold winter, but Edge was well prepared with his sleeping bag and Gore-Tex bivvy bag. It was safer sleeping during the day, but he would try to get a few hours at night, if he found a safe and quiet spot. His research had advised that he should sleep with a group, but Edge distrusted everyone after his narrow escape near Waterloo and he had no wish to catch drug resistant TB or scabies. For those reasons he avoided sleeping in homeless shelters, which were rife with drugs and crime as well as disease.
He maintained personal hygiene by slipping into swimming pools and leisure centres at busy times. He paid particular attention to foot and oral hygiene. He washed socks and underwear in the shower and dried them in his sleeping bag. He used baking soda to keep his clothes and body smelling fresh, during the days he was unable to take a shower. Unfortunately he continued to be plagued with cluster headaches and was existing on a steady flow of painkillers. Only codeine-based painkillers seemed to give him respite. Sometimes they were so bad that Edge had to find somewhere dark to wait for them to pass.
Each of the lobes of the brain are responsible for different functions, and surround the insular cortex. The frontal lobe controls many different functions, such as coordination of movement, intelligence/reasoning, language, personality, as well as the expression and regulation of emotions.
The frontal lobe of the brain plays an enormous part in the higher functions of the brain that make you what you are. The frontal lobe has many interconnections with the other lobes of the brain—most notably the limbic node.
Just over a year previously, Edge’s parietal bone, the thickest part of the skull, had made violent contact with Mr Daniel Copeland’s maxilla. The framework of a cobalt chrome denture plate and the stumps of shattered incisor teeth had caused significant soft tissue injury to Edge’s forehead. But the real damage lay within the network of capillaries inside his skull.
Food wasn’t a problem and he made use of the soup kitchens in Whitechapel, near Waterloo and the Imperial War Museum. He had peanut butter and jerked beef for protein and the markets were a good supply for unsold and unwanted fruit. It astonished him at just how much food was wasted in the city. He filled his water bottle whenever he could and always used puritabs. Urinating could be a risky business and he had no wish to be arrested for outraging public decency. The police were generally tolerant, apart from the City of London force who regarded the streets as their personal fiefdom. Edge kept well clear because he had no wish to explain why he was carrying such a murderous knife.
He hired a couple of left luggage lockers in Liverpool Street and Waterloo stations, where he could leave his personal kit whilst conducting his morning and evening surveillance. It was however, a long and frustrating business, but he was driven by his all-consuming hatred. People like Ron Gleam didn’t tend to move in the same circles as London’s worker ants, let alone the city’s homeless. They were feted on Newsnight and by the Trade Union Congress. Edge carried an edition of the Spectator Magazine, which had a feature piece on Ron Gleam and The Community Legal Notaries. It was headed with: No Public Servants are Above the Law – One Man’s Heroic Fight against the Generals’ Cover-ups. He kept it permanently on hand to identify Ron Gleam, for when he could get close enough. The Spectator’s photographer had more than done him justice.
Edge had thought that perhaps it would be easier to just get in close and eviscerate Gleam on the street with the knife, which was in a sheath, handle down in the small of his back. But he had a feeling that the action would be passed off as a random, violent act by a deranged psychopath. Killing the lawyer with the rifle seemed to have more gravitas and Edge wanted to send a message to the governing elite, that even with their gated communities and bodyguards, they would never be truly safe.
Edge had met a virtuous, unselfish woman who volunteered in one of the soup kitchens and hostel he frequented. She was caring and vivacious in an easy way. Despite his circumstances, Edge called them do-gooders, but her demeanour lacked what he regarded as that nauseating, virtue-signalling persona with which do-gooders, seemed to wrap themselves. Edge’s cynicism as well as his anger was consuming the kindliness he had once had. The fifteen-year-old boy who had helped the Non-conventionals with their homework had long gone. She would talk to any of them. The alcoholics with the shakes, who sometimes pissed themselves in the dining hall. Or the toothless addicts who had run out of veins to inject, it didn’t seem to matter to her. She would get a mop, bucket and disinfectant and get on with it.
But to Edge she maintained a cold aloofness, that seemed to match his disdain for life in general. He was convinced that she didn’t like him and he convinced himself that he cared not one jot. One evening he arrived too late for dinner and most of the other punters were bedding down for the night. She was emptying and tidying containers on the Bain Maries and glanced up as Edge came in.
“Oh, too late, sorry,” he turned to leave.
“Just sit down and I’ll get you something. It will be a bit of a mish-mash I’m afraid.”
She came over with a plate, cutlery and two slices of stale bread and much to his surprise, she sat opposite him.
“Err, thanks,” Edge tucked into some corned beef stew with a few potatoes. The carrots were overdone and it wasn’t particularly hot, but welcome nonetheless. Her presence was disconcerting as she watched him eat. When he had finished, he smiled awkwardly at her, but there was no warmth in his eyes.
“What’s your name?”
“Brink, Marten Brink.”
“Yes, my father was from the Netherlands.”
She stared at him coolly, a wry little smile playing at the corners of her mouth, “Well, Marten Brink, I’ve got a question for you.”
He pushed his plate away.
“Why are you playing at being homeless?”
Edge looked at her coldly, “I didn’t realise it’s a game.”
“It isn’t for most of the poor souls who traipse in and out of this hostel. Circumstance and their own failings have put most of the people you see in here. But you’re not like them, are you? I just wondered if you’re doing research or just want to see how the other half lives.”
“I’m looking for someone,” Edge told her reluctantly.
She pulled a little pad out of her apron pocket and scribbled something on it, ripped out the page and pushed it across the table.
“My mobile number. Let me know when you’ve decided that you want help, but I don’t think you’ll ever find what you’re looking for.”
Edge decided to give the hostel near Waterloo a miss for some time to come. One morning in late February he caught sight of Gleam in the back of a taxi, but it swung round Lincoln’s Inn Fields and headed for the barrier controlled mews to the rear of Serle Street. Edge went to buy some fast-setting epoxy resin and some wire cutters from a hardware shop.
That lunchtime the security guard in his booth was both disgusted and astonished to see a drunk lurching towards the security barrier. The man was filthy and bounced off walls, staggering into an alcove to presumably urinate. Edge was frantically mixing the epoxy resin and when he lurched back into view, seemed to bypass the barriers with one step forward and two back. He hit the barrier stanchion and swore at it, offered to fight it then fell over it. The security guard had seen enough and moved quickly out of his booth, but not quickly enough. The card and optical readers were liberally smeared and jammed with the epoxy resin. He couldn’t find any wires to cut, unfortunately. He tripped and sprawled over, giggling at the security guard, who hauled him up and rammed him against the wall.
“Shhorry, seem to losht my way.” Edge sniggered drunkenly and wiped his hand on the security guard’s jacket.
The guard punched him in the stomach and Edge doubled up and fell over. The guard started to kick him, then remembered the security cameras at each end of the mews. He hauled up the drunk and threw him out onto the road. A van hooted angrily and swerved to avoid the body. Edge picked himself up and ran unsteadily into Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Out of sight, he composed himself.
“Bastard!” he exclaimed angrily, debating whether to go back and cause the security guard some serious damage, but he calmed down and decided to remain on mission. That afternoon Edge stole a bicycle and stashed it by the railings on Searle Street. He went to the left luggage locker at Liverpool Street Station and changed into a cycle courier’s uniform of lycra and a document bag. It started to rain so Edge took cover and waited. At 17:50 he saw Ron Gleam leave the offices and hail a taxi. Edge followed the taxi through the rush hour traffic to Paddington Station. It was exhausting and he alienated a large number of drivers in the 3.5 mile frenetic pedal through London to Paddington Station.
He lost the lawyer in the scrum inside the station but decided to move his area of operations to West London. Five days later he clocked Gleam and followed him to platform 5 for the train to Oxford. He purchased a first-class ticket and got in the same carriage as Gleam, slightly underdressed, much like a wealthy musician who didn’t need to care what people thought. Gleam changed at Twyford and he didn’t notice the scruffy individual who walked with the confidence of a man who deserved to travel first class to Henley-on-Thames. It was pointless trying to follow Gleam from the station, but Edge now knew the type of Bentley that Gleam drove. He moved very much upmarket in his area of operations, and he would have to work very hard to remain unnoticed. It was time for him to stop playing at being homeless. Over the next week he would conduct such a thorough reconnaissance of the Thames town that he would know how many people lived in each of the fabulous houses, their level of security, their routines, but more importantly the best positions and angles to take a shot.
However, the woman at the hostel’s remark had rankled him. It was like an annoying itch that needed to be scratched and before he moved on, he pulled the crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and his cheap pay-as-you-go mobile phone and scratched it. They met in a coffee bar, a suitable and safe public area and Edge drank green tea, a taste he had developed in assorted Middle-Eastern shitholes. Tea is made with boiling water, so whichever hand had been used to make it wasn’t so imperative. She looked good. The apron had gone, but there was still the faint, greasy aroma of the hostel kitchens about her. Edge wondered if she was playing at being a kindly charity worker as much as he had being a homeless down and out. He realised that it was an unkind thought and he cringed inwardly. There were parts of him that even he hated.
“Well, Mr Brink. Have you finally decided that you need some help?” Her cappuccino was still too hot to drink.
“No. I’ve come to say goodbye.”
She stirred the chocolate sprinkles on top of the cup thoughtfully, “So you’ve found who you were looking for. Now what?”
“You’ll probably read about it in the papers. Most of it will be a bloody lie.”
She looked at him and smiled sadly, You know, I once knew someone like you.”
Oh God, here we go, he thought.
“He was a pilot. Nothing glamorous, but he used to fly the routes into the Western Isles. Mostly clapped out Islanders, or the mail runs in a Twin Cessna into Barra and Benbecula. Sometimes it was to take the islanders to hospital appointments in Glasgow.”
Edge thought he could detect a slight Scottish accent.
“He loved it. But it was terribly stressful. The approach and landing to Barra was a right bastard. At least that’s what he said. Flying in the Western Isles is so dependent on the weather and in the case of Barra, the tides. But it was a service the islanders could rely on. Unfortunately the stress was killing him, the long hours in little planes like that, no second pilot. Alone with the weather.”
Edge was genuinely interested about someone apart from himself, “What happened?”
“Two years ago, it was during the cluster of bad storms. He tried to get into Benbecula to pick up a pregnant woman who was having complications. Some bloody idiot hit and damaged the Navy Sea King at Prestwick with a low loader, so they asked him to try. Even in the storm he agreed and made three aborted approaches, but just couldn’t get in. Unfortunately both the woman and her baby died.”
“What’s your name?” Edge asked quietly.
“Kimberly. You’ve probably heard them call me Kim at the hostel, but that’s all you’re getting, Marten Brink and at least it’s my real name.”
“I’m going to hate this aren’t I, Kimberly?”
“Do you know Perth, Marten, specifically Kinnoull Hill?” he did but shook his head, “It’s a beautiful spot where you can see the River Tay meandering through the valley, high above Perth. Well you see, this pilot was distraught and felt that he had failed at his duty. The trouble was his wife was too much of a piss head to notice how much pain her husband was in. As long as she had the vodka and her vacuous friends, she didn’t really care. This chap, poor sod had nowhere to turn, so he walked up Kinnoull Hill. They found him three days later on a ledge a hundred and fifty feet down from the top. Dead, obviously.”
Edge looked at her and felt his mouth was dry, “I am so very sorry. Is that why you came to London?”
“To make amends? Atonement?” she laughed bitterly, “No. Initially it was to drink and fuck myself to death. The other stuff came later. If I hadn’t been such a useless lush, I could have seen that he was being consumed, much like you are now.”
To Edge’s surprise she reached across the table and grabbed his hand, “I’m like that little boy in the Sixth Sense. I see dead people. You might be living, but you’re dead inside. I bet you’ve made friends with the bottle, haven’t you, Marten?”
“The bottle and I have been on intimate terms, many times in the past,” he agreed.
“I’m going to do something that is probably incredibly stupid. I may well end up as just another statistic, a stupid woman who trusted too much. You may well be the last thing that I see, but I’m prepared to take the risk. Are you?”
She looked at him as he came out of the shower. Firstly at the obvious part and then at the puckered and ragged scar above his left hip.
“My God! What happened to you?”
“It’s what you call an occupational injury. I got too close to a parting wire hawser on a fishing trawler.” The lie seemed to come easier than the truth.
“I’ve hidden your knife while you were in the shower, not that I suppose it matters. You wouldn’t need anything would you?”
Edge towelled himself vigorously. The hot shower had been wonderful.
“You must know that we all carry a weapon of some form or another in order to survive. And you must know that I mean you no harm.”
She walked up to him and they embraced. Edge was hit by many conflicting emotions. He thought of Moira, then he thought about Daz Copeland. And he thought about the scent of a woman, how long it had been. He could bury himself in that moment and he did.
When she woke up, he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, rocking gently.
“Marten, whatever’s wrong.”
“Bloody headaches. They keep coming and going. Too much emotion I suppose.”
She put her arm round him gently, “Lie down while I get you something for it.
An intracranial haematoma is a collection of blood within the skull, most commonly caused by rupture of a blood vessel within the brain or from trauma such as a car accident or fall. The blood collection can be within the brain tissue or underneath the skull, pressing on the brain.
Although some head injuries — such as one that causes only a brief lapse of consciousness (concussion) — can be minor, an intracranial haematoma is potentially life-threatening. It usually requires immediate treatment, often surgery to remove the blood.
The sufferer might develop signs and symptoms of an intracranial haematoma right after a blow to the head, or they may take weeks or even months to appear. They might seem fine after a head injury, a period called the lucid interval.
Edge was fast approaching the end of his long, lucid interval.
© Blown Periphery 2018