War Crimes Chapter 13
When Angela found Moira it was obvious that Moira had been crying. Her dark mascara had run from her eyes in blue streaks and those eyes were puffy and reddened. Even her hair looked slightly dull and listless, as though the spark had gone to be replaced with self-indulgent misery. She was sitting on the loading bay, pretending to smoke a cigarette. Moira was drawing in with a huge suck, the cigarette end glowing like the tip of an inquisitor’s poker, then she let out the smoke in gentle puffs, because it was obviously too hot for her oral membranes. Inhaling was out of the question.
“For Christ’s sake, Moi, What the hell are you doing?”
“Leave me alone,” Moira sobbed and then hiccuped. It was the cigarette smoke.
Angela gathered her work dress, voluminous with nice, white buttons and sat down on the loading platform next to her.
“Moi, why are you sitting out here? It’s bloody freezing and you don’t even smoke.”
She hiccuped again and threw the cigarette away.
“Who gave you that?”
“Oh,” Angela observed dryly, “So that’s why he was laughing.”
“So you’re all just laughing at me.”
Angela sighed. Sometimes her friend could be very high maintenance and she blamed Moira’s cloying and overbearing mother and father, “What is it this time, Moi?”
Que another round of sobbing, “It’s Daz, I’ve dumped him.”
Angela’s mouth was set in a thin line, “Good, because he’s a cock!”
“But I love him.”
Angela knew very well what a bastard Daniel Copeland AKA Daz could be, because she had spent a long, exciting but ultimately frustrating six months with him, intimately. It was Daz’s wandering eye and controlling demeanour that did it for Angela. Not to mention his propensity to rape and violence. He was like all men of his ilk, dangerous exciting but not somebody you’d spend the rest of your life with. A big, violent and aggressive fish in Great Torrington’s little gene pool.
“Who’s idea, your mum or dad’s?”
Moira dabbed her eyes, “Mine, Dad thinks he’s wonderful. He works in Dad’s company.”
“What did he do this time?”
Moira’s tears flew freely now, “He’s been seeing someone else.”
“By seeing, do you mean shagging?”
She nodded and shuddered, “But not only that. He wanted me to sniff some kind of drug, but I wouldn’t because it smelled like dirty socks, horrible.”
“Amyl Nitrate. It’s seriously bad stuff, Moira. If it wasn’t now, it would have been next week, next month, or next year for the rest of your time with him. He didn’t, well try to..? Never mind, you’ve had a lucky escape, love. Come on, let’s go in.”
They went back to the offices through the glass blowing area, bathing in the heat from the furnaces. The two young women stopped to admire the easy skills of the glass blowers.
“I wish I could do that,” Moira said as she watched one of the makers blowing through the hollow steel tube, an amorphous mass of molten glass on the other end. He made it look so easy, but she knew it wasn’t.
“I thought Daz would have made sure you have plenty of practice by now.”
Moira laughed reluctantly, but she knew Angela was only half joking.
That lunchtime, Angela put a suggestion to Moira, “Listen, I’ve got an invite to a wedding up near Bristol, this weekend. Do you fancy coming with me? My car’s just failed its MOT and I know it’s cheeky, but you could take us in your car. I’ve got a hotel booked and we could share the room, unless one of us cops off with someone, then we’ll arm wrestle for it.”
“Who’s getting married?”
“A friend of my brother. You know, Mickie, my elder bro, who’s in the Army. Well he’s Mickie’s company commander, an officer.”
“Do officers normally invite their soldiers to their wedding?” Moira said doubtfully.
“They do in my brother’s regiment. They’re a bit “special.”
Angela giggled, “Bloody hell, Moi. I think the special one is you sometimes. No, not that kind of special.”
“I don’t know, I’ll have to ask Mum and Dad.”
“For God’s sake! You’re nineteen, nearly twenty. Grab life by the balls! What do you have to lose?”
“I’m not sure what to wear.”
Angela put her head down and pretended to beat her head on the desk.
The reception was full of young people, a large number of which were in uniform. It was around 75/25 Army to RAF. This clearly wasn’t a family wedding. Moira was enjoying herself chatting to Angela’s brother, who had the greenest eyes she had ever seen and a shock of ginger hair. She had drunk rather more than she was used to and Daz was a distant memory, like the unfortunate repercussions of a bad meal. Mickie was charming company, but it was obvious he had come with someone else who was in the mood for dancing. He wasn’t and was happy to chat to his sister’s friend.
“Who are those boys over there in the grey-blue uniforms?”
They’re RAF PJIs.”
“Parachute Jump Instructors.”
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d need much instruction to jump out of a plane.”
Mickie smiled at her naivety, “You’d be surprised. We have to give back the parachutes that don’t work to someone.”
She sussed he was pulling her leg, “Oh you.”
As the evening wore on and the slower dance tracks started, Moira was un-partnered, but she wasn’t too bothered as she had had enough of men and relationships. She decided to get what would be her last drink at the bar and was resolved to spending the night alone in the shared hotel room. Angela had copped off with one of the PJIs for a night of uncomplicated sex in his hotel, so she had the room to herself.
He had been watching the girl from the scrum of unattached males, whose wedding reception was one of boozing rather than dancing and courtship displays. They were getting into their stride with the unofficial Regimental song Chumbawaba’s Tubthumping, complete with actions and a Signaller singing pissing the night away in a sotto voice. Whatever had been left of the bride’s family had made themselves scarce, tut-tutting as they left, wondering what the hell she had let herself in for. He had always felt like an outsider looking in and had grown bored with the military rutting rituals. He was unattached and so was she judging by his surveillance. She was dark, looked slightly vulnerable and she was fucking gorgeous. He moved in to the fight through.
Moira became aware of someone reaching the bar just before she did.
“Could I have…” then he noticed her, “Oh I’m sorry, I’ve pushed in.”
Moira smiled shyly, “It’s OK.”
“Let me get you a drink. It’s the least I can do.”
The barman who had seen it all before raised his eyes, “Bacardi and coke for madam?”
“Red wine, Merlot or Shiraz, it doesn’t matter.”
She looked at him surreptitiously. Smaller than she would have preferred, compared to… Fuck him. Very fit looking and smart in his Number 2 Dress Uniform. Hard face with grey eyes. A nose slightly displaced to the side. Two stripes, a corporal? He looked unsafe and appealing for it. His voice was quiet and temperate compared to some of the ruck who were getting more boisterous. She reckoned this was a man who was comfortable in his skin.
His hair was quite long for a soldier and a bit tousled, like a naughty little boy, she thought to herself. Although he was smiling, he seemed to have a slight air of sadness, as though life had dealt him some pretty poor hands. And looking at his face, it had. There was a frisson of danger about him that attracted Moira, much like that bastard Daz, but in his case, the danger seemed controlled.
He gave her the Bacardi and smiled, raising his glass, “Your good health.”
They toasted each other, “It looks like we’re a couple of spare wheels. Do you mind if I join you?”
She hesitated so he started to back away, “Sorry if I’m being a bit forward. I’ll leave you…”
“No it’s OK. We can be spare wheels together. Can we sit down, only my feet are killing me in these shoes.”
They found a quiet table and the chat came easy. He was genuinely interested in her and asked lots of questions about where she came from and what she did.
“You work in a glass factory? Stupid question, but do you make stuff?”
She giggled, “No silly. I work in the sales office. I’m Moira Tremain, so hello.”
“Moira Tremain,” he said mulling the name over, “That’s very Lorna Doone. Lorna Tremain from the glass factory.”
We export stuff all over the world. I’ve told you my name, now what’s yours?”
“Like the guitarist in U2.”
There was a brief, fleeting trace of anger in his eyes, but she knew it wasn’t directed at her, “No, not like the guitarist from U2. He’s The Edge. I’m just plain, old Edge.”
“Your Christian name please.”
“Right Mark, now I want to know something.”
Here we go, he thought. The inevitable, have you ever killed anyone question.
She touched the bright blue parachute wings on the top of his right sleeve, “How come your badge is much prettier than those RAF boys’ badges?”
He laughed, “Because they’re not allowed to wear them, unless they are in the Regiment.”
“So you’re better at parachuting than they are.”
He smiled and then chuckled into his Merlot, “No they actually teach us on the HALO course. We’ve just finished it, that’s why my badge looks so bright and new.”
“High Altitude exit, Low Opening.”
“What height do you jump from?”
She pouted and Edge guessed that despite her obvious beauty and sexual attraction, Moira was a spoiled little girl.
“But you can see the curvature of the earth.”
They drank more and now as they talked of cabbages and kings, their heads were close together, hands touching occasionally. There was nobody else in the big room as far as they were concerned. Eventually she dragged him up to dance to a Kiss from a Rose.
“C’mon Mark, I like this one.”
“No, I’ve got two left feet.”
She pulled him to the dance floor and they melted together. She smelled as good as she looked and a song popped unbidden into Edge’s mind, wiping out Seal:
She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow till your sense of which direction
Why she looks at you so coolly?
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat – Al Stewart
Moira wrapped the sheet round her tender body as the sweat cooled and she went up on one elbow to study the man who was lying next to her. Edge lay with his eyes closed, breathing gently. His body was covered with old and some newer scars. There were scabs on his knees and elbows, like a little boy. It was the hardest body she had ever felt, a by-product of a hard and violent occupation, rather than a narcissistic obsession in a gym.
“What time is it?” he asked without opening his eyes.
“Just after six in the morning.”
“I suppose that I really should have a shower and get ready.”
“Have you anything to get ready for?”
“Not until Monday,” he admitted. Edge went up on his opposite elbow and they stared at each other, “What about you?”
She decided that his rather hard face with the slightly twisted nose, was the most handsome she had ever seen, “Work on Monday.”
“Are you mocking me, Mark Edge?”
“No. I’m here looking at you and I can think of no better reason not to go to work. Ever.”
“I never managed to blow a vase or glass, but it was valuable practice,” she said and tracked down his stomach with her mouth.
By Sunday evening, Moira’s friend Angela was feeling disgruntled because she had to go home by bus and train. Moira had met the man she wanted to marry and was suffering with a mild case of honeymoon cystitis. Edge decided that Moira was a good catch and he would be a fool to let her go. He also had a torn frenulum.
“What happens now?” she asked as they packed that evening.
“I go to France to do some parachuting with the French Army. You give me your address and telephone number and when I can, I’ll be hotfooting it to North Devon for some more glass blowing instruction. I haven’t quite got the hang of it.”
The course of true love never runs smoothly and Edge and Moira’s relationship was no exception. His visits were infrequent due to the tumultuous situation in the Balkan States of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. There was the logistical difficulties of travelling down to the West Country and limited periods of leave, but Edge came to love the area and Moira. Moira became more worldly wise and mature. She was infatuated with her little soldier, as she called him, much to Edge’s disgust.
For his part, Edge learned to share his life with someone else, well most of it. Like all ordinary people who do extraordinary work in the service of their country, Edge had compartmentalised his mind. It was like a library he could delve into. Romance, non-fiction. Travel, non-fiction. War and conflict, non-fiction. Happily ever after, fiction. But Edge truly loved Moira and he was absolutely happy and contented in her company. He just wasn’t very good at showing it.
Moira had a lot of preconceived notions about the Army, a view shared by her parents with an absolute certainty. But Mark Edge refused to fit stereotypes and he constantly surprised her. He was vigorous and harsh, but on occasions tender and artistically very talented. He would sit opposite her, doodling on a pad and after five minutes, produce a beautifully executed portrait in biro. His watercolours of birds and landscapes were exquisite, but photography was his real talent. He took endless pictures of the Taw and Torridge whenever he visited her. Edge had a passion for books and was well-read
She learned more about the countryside she had lived in all her life from Edge, in the days and weeks they spent together. They would go for walks and disappear into the undergrowth. Edge always knew where to find dry and secluded hides where they would make love like forest animals and return to Moira’s parents’ house, looking flushed and dishevelled.
Moira’s parents, particularly her father disliked Edge with a vengeance and it was a source of endless conflict between them.
“Mark, why won’t you even try to meet them half way?” Moira asked him in his hotel room in Bideford. The situation regarding Edge and her parents had become so toxic, that he felt obliged to stay in a hotel when he visited Moira rather than stay under their roof.
“Because I have a delicate and sensitive nature and I don’t like it when people don’t like me and go out of their way to make me feel unwelcome.
They were lying in a four poster bed in a hotel that overlooked the medieval bridge over the Torridge. Her head was tucked on his shoulder and Edge was paying gentle attention to her right nipple. She brushed his hand away irritably.
“You won’t even make the effort!”
“All right then, let’s look at the evidence. Your dad is a big noise round these parts. He runs a large business which employs a lot of people. All credit to him. And you, you lucky girl, live in a six bedroom house. You’re an only child, and to put it bluntly, Moira, you’re a spoiled little bitch.
“And then along comes Edge, a violent killing machine who likes nothing better than despoiling daddies little girl. I bet they’ve gone out of their way to dissuade you from having anything to do with me. I bet you haven’t even told them I’m here. How am I doing?”
She said nothing, but he could tell by her breathing and heart rate he had hit the nail on the head.
“OK then, let’s think about daddies’ lovely six bedroom house. Along comes Edge, Percy Pongo. Is there any room at the inn? No, Percy Pongo gets to sleep in the annex above your daddies’ nice double garage and workshop. “We thought it best for you,” Says Mrs Tremain,”You can come and go as you please.” As long as it’s nowhere near our darling daughter’s bedroom. Much more fitting for the lower orders don’t you think? Far enough away to stop him giving his little girl a good seeing-to.”
She sat up and slapped him, not hard and rather half-hearted because she knew he was right. Edge started to laugh and her face changed and she punched him, harder this time. She found herself on her back with her arms pinned over her head. By God he was fast and strong. His face wasn’t angry, just set and determined.
“We have to sort a couple of things out, Moira Tremain. Do you want to marry me?”
“You must be joking, no I do not!”
Keeping her arms pinned, he moved down and blew on her right nipple. He knew that was the more sensitive.
“You bastard, Edge! I suppose so.”
“A proper marriage, just you and me living together. Not with mummy and daddy.”
“I’ve told you. I’m not following you around in damp, shitty married quarters like some chattel. I’ve got a job and family here. I could make a home for both of us here. You won’t be in the Army for ever.”
“But not with mummy and daddy. Those are my conditions. Tell me Moira, did daddy buy you a pony when you were little?”
She pouted like the spoiled girl she was.
“He did, didn’t he?” Edge said with a laugh.
“Fuck off, Mark.”
“I disapprove of such unladylike language,” he told her and nibbled at her nipple.
“You are such a bastard!”
He stopped and studied the tactile reaction, “What if I tell you that I’ve seen a cottage on the river, well obviously up a bit from the river. What if I tell you I’ve got enough money for a deposit and what if I tell you we could both live in it? Not me all the time, of course.”
“I don’t believe you. Where?”
“Weare Giffard. Less than three miles from here, but just conveniently far away from your mummy and daddy. And closer to your work.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’ve got a viewing tomorrow. You can come if you want.”
“I might not want to.”
“Ok,” he said, “I may have to persuade you a bit more…”
A few hours later someone was hammering on the wall and yelling for them to: Keep the fucking noise down, some of us have to get up tomorrow! They collapsed in each other’s arms laughing. And Edge necked half of the bottle of Champagne that had been cooling in a chiller.
“Did you know that the original Champagne glass called the ‘coupe’ is reputed to have been modelled on two of King Louis XV’s mistresses, Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry? They are said to have created glasses from their breasts for the King’s lips only. Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Josephine is rumoured to have created breast glassware for her own personal use, while Helen of Troy allowed Paris to make wax moulds of her breasts to turn into coupe‘s for his own pleasure.”
“They couldn’t have had that much in the booby department back then,” Moira observed pointedly.
Edge scrutinised her breasts and picked up the chilled Champagne, then poured some on them and proceeded to lick it off. It was a decadent action but the coldness followed by the warmth was exquisite. She couldn’t believe that she was doing this, with a person who had just proposed to her in such an odd way. But as he grinned at her, she knew that for better or worse, they would be together. She was getting on a roller-coaster.
© Blown Periphery 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file