War Crimes Chapter 2
Of course it had been an accident. He hadn’t even pushed Glen Collier off the raft. Well not technically anyway. It wasn’t Daz who made him lose his balance on the home-made raft, well he might have rocked it a bit, but Glen fell in. Glen could easily have climbed back on board, he even held out the plank he had been using as a paddle to help him climb back on. It was an accident he hit Glen over the head with it. Besides, Glen shouldn’t have threatened to tell his dad about Daz and Glen’s sister, Carly. And nobody was more surprised than Daz, when Glen went under and didn’t come back up. He spent a long time, minutes or less, calling out for Glen. Of course he hadn’t gone in after him, the flooded quarry was supposed to be bottomless. Besides, he didn’t want to get tangled with the old crane that reached up to just below the surface. He could have told Glen’s parents or another adult, but they would have blamed him and confiscated the raft. He had spent a lot of time making that raft, at least half as much as Glen had and he had made it work. So it was all Glen’s fault really. Anyone could see that…
Daniel “Daz” Copeland killed his first human being when he was fifteen. He had begun his murderous apprenticeship on vermin, birds, rabbits then moved onto cats. Even as a child he took particular pleasure in torturing cats to death. But these were just practice for the cruelty that would become Daniel Copeland’s stock in trade. A dispassionate individual might well have concluded, that it would have been better to have drowned the child at birth. It would have at least prevented such misery in the future.
He was born in Andover to a weak, alcoholic and occasionally skunk-addicted girl of sixteen. His father was a soldier from the Tidworth garrison, who really didn’t want to get involved with the girl, particularly in view of her drug taking, but she was now pregnant. Her parents kicked her out when they found out and to be fair to the reluctant father, he agreed to marry her, thus providing her with a home, rather than any hope of a long-term relationship. As a small child, Daniel Copeland could clearly remember his father’s absences and his mother’s penchant for having open house in the grotty married quarter while he was away.
When the time came for Private Copeland’s regiment to move to Germany, his wife point-blank refused to pack up home like, as she put it, a camp follower. She left her husband when Daniel Copeland was nine and moved in with a travelling community. Private Copeland was less than devastated when he heard the news his wife was gone.
Daniel’s mother was drawn to the burning neon up above and the tacky glamour of the travelling fair, specifically a dark-haired Lothario who told everyone he had seafaring roots, but had actually been born in Melton Mowbray, the son of a vicar. They toured with the travelling fairs and Daniel came to love the rough and ready life and the fact he seldom went to school. While they were mainly rough and ready, many were kind hearted and looked after this stray and her growing son. Daniel could read and write and was taught basic but necessary arithmetic in caravans. He was expected to help with setting up and dismantling the fairgrounds and he grew up worldly wise and very strong. He learned how to look after himself and where necessary, he used his fists to establish his place in the travelling hierarchy.
All could have been well, but for his amorality and sense of cruelty, none of which was helped by a feeble mother who caved in to his every whim. Unfortunately, Daniel looked to the wrong men as his role models. Puberty also established another of his traits, an insatiable growing sexual appetite, enabled by the lifestyle, and the myriads of free and easy girls lured to the fairs in search of a bit of excitement. And at fifteen and with a tumescent libido, Daniel, or “Daz” as he now preferred to be known, was only too happy to oblige.
In the long stopover for the Tavistock Goosey Fair, Daz made the acquaintance of local, little hard-nut called Glen Collier. Glen had been hanging round, watching them putting up the rides and stalls and Daz went over to tell him to piss off. But Glen was sixteen, as big although probably not as strong as Daz and he didn’t feel like pissing off. They compromised and started hanging around together, because Daz didn’t want to get involved in a fight he might not win. And as a result, Daz met Glen’s sister, Carley. An achingly pretty girl with the body of a voluptuous woman and what Daz wanted, he took. Unfortunately, Carley had just turned fourteen.
On the Monday, the day that fair folk took off, Glen called on Daz on his bike and asked him if he wanted to help him finish a raft he was building. Intrigued, Daz borrowed (without permission) a bike. They peddled north on the Oakhampton road and turned off down a small, overgrown lane. After about half a mile, there was a high fence on their left with warning signs: Danger. Quarry. Keep out. The fence had gone or had been torn down in one place, which had been extensively used by local builders and traders as a fly tip. The boys pushed their bikes through the gap and stashed them in the new trees that had grown up. Daz followed Glen until they arrived at the disused quarry that was now flooded due to runoff from the moors and the proximity to the River Tavy. It was a beautiful October late-morning, blue sky and a tiny breeze that put catspaws on the surface of the water.
“This is really cool,” Daz said, wide-eyed in almost-forgotten, childish wonder, “Where’s your raft?”
“Over by that caved-in shed. Come on.”
The raft was two pallets lashed together with six empty, black, medium-size metal drums with: Gypsum Products, Dental Plaster, labelled on them.
“Trouble is, they’re too loose,” Glen said sadly.
Daz picked one end of a pallet up and lifted. Immediately it buckled in the middle.
“You haven’t tied it diagonally to each corner,” he said, knowing a thing or two from constructing rides and stalls, “It needs cross-bracing. Where’s some rope?”
They scoured the quarry for suitable ties and strapping. Daz showed him where to tie the ropes. After all, it was Glen’s raft. After an hour’s endeavours, the raft was relatively sturdy and ready for launching.
“We need to christen it,” Daz told him and proceeded to piss of one of the drums.
“I name this ship…”
“SS Collier.” Glen finished for him, giggling.
They carried the raft to the edge of the water and launched it. Without their weight on the pallets it seemed to float very well and was high up in the water.
“We’ll need some paddles,” Glen observed and went rummaging for two planks, of which Daz took the heavier.
They cautiously got on board and if they kept low by kneeling, the raft was stable. After a few tentative strokes, they got the hang of keeping the raft moving in a straight line. The water had a peculiar greenish-blue shade and was clear down for about ten feet. In the middle of the quarry, they peered down into the depths and saw the derrick of a crane reaching out of the blackness, up to a couple of feet under the surface. Weed festooned the structure, which gently waved in unseen currents. It was a mournful and eerie sight, looking down on the abandoned machinery.
“When they had finished with the quarry, they just left the crane, coz it wouldn’t start and was knackered anyway. And then it flooded. There are all sorts of things down there. It’s really deep.”
It was tiring paddling to keep the raft on an even course, so they had a rest, bobbing near the middle of the quarry. Daz had some cigarettes, which naturally he had pilfered. He gave one to Glen and lit them with a Zippo lighter.
“Where’d you get the lighter from, Daz?”
“Found it on the waltzer, must have fallen out of somebody’s pocket. Finders keepers,” Daz told him. He had carved DAZ on the body of the Zippo so it was properly his now. He could have given it back to the man, because he saw it come out of his pocket, but the man was with two pretty girls and he hated him for it.
They passed the time in a companionable silence, enjoying the warm sun of an Indian summer. All would have been well had Daz managed to avoid showing off and crowing about his sexual conquests, but because he was a sociopath, he was unbound by normal social contracts.
“Hey, Glen, guess what.”
“I fucked your sister on Saturday night.”
Glen Collier stared at Daz. He dropped the cigarette in the water and it went out with a slight fizz,
“You shouldn’t have done that, Daz.”
“Why? She loved it, panting like a little dog she was.”
“She’s only just turned fourteen, you dirty bastard!”
Daz shrugged and stood up, “Well what you going to do about it?”
“As a starter, I’m going to tell my dad and he’s gonna fucking kill you, Daz.”
Glen went to stand up and as he was off balance, Daz started to rock the raft.
“You bastard, Daz. Stop it!”
The raft was rocking alarmingly now and Glen slipped. As it pitched violently the other way, the boy gave a slight cry and went into the freezing water. He gasped involuntarily as his body reacted and swallowed water. He went under, his parka dragging him down. Glen struggled upwards and broke water.
“Tell your fucking dad now, you prick.”
Glen tried to reach for the edge of the raft, but Daz struck him in the face with the makeshift oar. The drowning boy’s mouth was an O of surprise and without a sound, he slipped into depths, his parka open like a useless parachute. The blackness swallowed him on his journey to the quarry floor.
It took Daz an age to row back to the bank on his own, but it gave him time to get his story straight. He dismantled the raft and scattered the components far and wide and then Glen’s bike joined its owner at the bottom of the quarry. He tried to think who might have seen him leaving the fair with Glen and invented a covering story that he had left Glen because he couldn’t cycle up the hills and fell behind, while Glen went on ahead. Not brilliant, but it would do.
The police did call at the fair a couple of days later, with some pictures of the boy. They asked general questions such as if anyone had seen him, but they didn’t question Daz. Because of the cold water, by the time the bacteria and internal gases caused Glen Collier’s body to resurface, it was another two weeks before his gruesome remains were found at the edge of the quarry where it had drifted. The post mortem found a small contusion on the upper nose and forehead, consistent with striking his head during a fall into the water. The Coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death and sagely warned of the dangers of playing by bodies of water alone.
Daz remained with the fair folk for another season, but his presence, occasional violent outbursts and penchant for underage girls was beginning to try patience. By the end of the following season, the fair elders made it clear to Daz’s mother that while her presence could be tolerated, that of her son could not. People in the community were openly speculating that perhaps he might know more than he let on about the disappearance of the boy in Tavistock. But going to the police with their suspicions was not their way. Daz left with no ceremony and certainly no sorrow. Even his own mother was realising what a foul creature she had spawned.
He headed south-west for what he thought would be the rich pickings in the resorts of Cornwall. But winter on the Atlantic coast holds little allure when the holiday bunnies are swaddled up against the cold and the main players are hard-core surfers at places like Newquay. Like everyone and all things Daz envied, he hated and was resentful of these fit youngsters who made riding the waves seem so easy. He spent a miserable winter, but survived on part-time jobs. He was also useful with his hands and could pass for someone at least three years older, so he managed to find work and sometimes accommodation on farms.
Daniel Copeland was nineteen when he killed again, but that time it really was an accident, honestly. It was midwinter in a dreary, wet and cold Cornwall and he was taking any jobs he could find, supplementing his income with burglary and casual crime. It was the type of crime that came to the police’s attention but wasn’t worth their expending too much time and effort to catch the perpetrator. Despite the picture-postcard view of the Cornwall of magnificent beaches, cliffs and countryside, the county was and still is one of the most deprived areas in England.
He was staying in a decrepit caravan in a park that was closed for the winter, in exchange for doing odd jobs and maintenance before the season picked up again. The park was on the northern outskirts of Camborne, a town that was in the ten percent most deprived areas of the British Isles, with incredibly high unemployment, particularly in the winter months.
There is a disturbing trend in the British underclass, which is encouraged by the state and that is to procreate without resources to care for and nurture these unfortunate offspring. There is a reliance on social services to pick up the pieces and expect the taxpayer to reward fecklessness. The two girls were already well-known to social services and had been in and out of care homes since they were twelve-years-old. In many European cultures the female offspring are regarded as precious and someone to be cherished, the holy cup that will bear and nurture their own offspring to pass on future generations. In the Camborne underclass these girls were an inconvenience.
Daz had made their acquaintance well after the pubs’ kicking out time, at a fish and chicken shop on Union Street. He moved in, carefully at first, joking with them and offering to pay for their suppers with his wad of cash. He didn’t hurry, just surveying the river before he got out his rod and cast on the waters. He offered to meet them a couple of nights later at a rather grotty nightclub, that wasn’t too bothered if underage girls frequented it. The girls had a good time, Daz plying them drink and copping the odd feel in the darkness. He learned that the eldest was called Gabby (or as he called her, Gobby) and the younger was Sam.
He met them again a few days later and asked if the fancied going back to his place, plenty of booze and some pot if they fancied a joint. Gabby had recently returned from a care home in St Austell and her mum didn’t much care for her number three offspring being under her feet. Sam’s mother was in a fresh relationship and was working part time in a bingo hall. Her mother’s new boyfriend unnerved Sam, particularly the way he looked at her. Once he had walked into the bathroom while Sam was in the bath, full of apologies but she knew it had been no accident. As a result, she would not spend time alone in the house with him and her mother had been working that night, which was why she had agreed to tag along with Gabby to Daz’s “place.”
It had started good enough because Daz was good company and he had plenty of vodka and cider. Then he had announced, “OK girls, let’s get this party started. We know why we’re all here.”
He rolled them a joint for “relaxation” and in due course he was having sex with Sam, while Gaby watched on, very drunk, stoned and giggling. Sam was no stranger to sex, but the experience with Daz was unpleasant as he was rough and bit her painfully. She decided that she had had enough and as her mother would be back from work, Sam decided to walk home to sober up.
“It’s late, Gabby. I think we should go.”
“You go if you wants, but I’m having a good time.”
“Please Gabby, this isn’t right.”
“I’m staying. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Sam left and walked into the night. She was fourteen and was angry with her friend. She was fortunate to have escaped with her life.
“What a wet blanket,” Daz said after she had gone.
“You didn’t seem to mind when you was fucking her, Daz.”
He laughed and lit another joint, “Now it’s your turn.”
Presently he was humping her from behind. Gabby was far more adventurous, not to mention vocal than her friend and he knew she was getting near.
“Hey, Gabby, you want to come really hard?”
“Oh, yes. Come on, come on.”
He wrapped the belt round her neck from behind and she began to struggle even as the climax built. “Take it, Gabby. Take it!”
She reared up and he pulled the belt tighter as they came. He collapsed on top of her and rolled off panting, “See. I told you it would be good.”
He sat up and reached for the partially smoked joint, “We can do it again when I’m ready.”
As he blew a contented smoke ring, Daz realised that gabby hadn’t moved and the belt was still wound tightly round her neck.
“Shit!” He rolled her over and her face was contused, her eyes were open and sightless, “Oh fucking shit!”
Panicking he tore off the belt and shook her, “Gabby. Gabby!”
He knew she was dead by the way she flopped lifelessly, her head lolling back, “This just isn’t bloody fair. She said yes, so it was her fault.”
He ran through his options. Had anybody seen him pick up the girls in his utility truck? No it had been dark. But what about Sam? OK, she knew where he lived but didn’t know her friend was dead. He had to get rid of the body. Bury it out on the moors? No, someone would find it. Dump it at sea. He would need a boat. This was Cornwall, plenty of boats.
Daz cleared up inside the caravan, getting rid of the drug paraphernalia. He would put Gabby’s clothes with the body, but he needed to wrap everything up and make sure it was weighed down. He headed for the site’s storage area and found some old carpet that was to be thrown out. There was also a length of chain and he dragged the two items back to his pick-up. He was calm now and dispassionately carried Gabby’s body outside, where he wrapped it with her clothes with the carpet. He secured the bundle with the chain and heaved it into the back of the pick-up. It had gone midnight by the time he drove to Hale and headed for the docks. He selected a small boat with an outboard that was moored to a larger fishing boat.
He loaded the body onto the boat and supplemented the bundle with a few breeze blocks, but he needed to wait for the tide. It was nearly 03:00 by the time the channel was full enough and he hotwired the outboard and cast off. Fortunately the sea was calm as he motored beyond the harbour into St Ives Bay, the street lights falling away behind him. Well out from the shore he put the engine in neutral and vary carefully and with some difficulty, he heaved the body and the carpet over the side. It disappeared into the inky blackness of over 200 feet of water with barely a ripple and a few bubbles. A young girl had effectively vanished as though she had never existed.
Daz knew that he needed to vanish as well and reasoned that if Gabby’s disappearance caused any issue, it would be assumed that the two of them had run off together. Daz motored back into Hale and re-moored the boat that now had some minor chain striations on the gunwale. He went back to the caravan and re-sanitised it, before packing everything he needed to start a new life somewhere else. He thought about setting fire to the caravan, but that would be suspicious. It was still dark when he headed north east on the A30. Something else would crop up. It always did. He would get rid of the pick-up and buy another one, just another transaction on the black economy.
He gravitated to North Devon, an area that was a holiday hotspot in the summer and had a fishing and shipbuilding industry. He found work in the shipyards during the leaner winter months and with the knowledge he picked up in the yards, he could maintain and repair the fishing boats, operating from Bideford. Because of his psychopathy, he was able to cultivate a network of acquaintances and he was not beyond doing a little drug dealing. There also a plentiful supply of young girls that migrated to the south west in the holiday season and by the time they realised what a violent, degenerate bastard he was, he was long gone. And then he made the acquaintance of a local mover and shaker, a man with his own, rather lucrative business. He had now been given the opportunity to destroy other lives. Unbeknown to him, he was on a collision course with somebody as equally violent as he, but with more control and better training. However, for the time being Daz Copeland was doing all right, thanks very much.
© Blown Periphery 2020
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