War Crimes Chapter 15
Like most of the important milestones in Edge’s life his marriage was in the autumn, October 14th of 2000 at St John the Baptist Church Instow. It was and is a beautiful church, nestled into the gentle folds of the hills above the estuary of the Rivers Taw and Torridge. Moira Tremain and Mark Edge were married at 13:00 under a glowering sky and predictably it rained all afternoon. He was smart in his No 2s, a Sergeant now with a Military Cross adding to his impressive tally of medals. Nobody asked him and he felt no need to publicise it. Moira knew and she also knew the toll on his mental health being awarded that medal had cost him.
His best man was a handsome man of average height and build. He was a Staff Sergeant, also dressed in No 2s. His name was Henry Morrison and like Edge, they had both reverted to the headwear of their donor Regiments for security reasons. Edge’s was the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment. Morrison’s wore that of 2 Para. Their reception was in a hotel on the outskirts of Barnstaple. Moira’s friend Angela seemed destined to be the perpetual bridesmaid, but never the bride. She had conducted her own close reconnaissance on the best man and was executing her own plan of manoeuvre on him.
The wedding meal was rather a stilted affair on the top table and a lot of Morrison’s jokey anecdotes fell rather flat with the audience. At one point, Edge caught Moira’s father looking up at the ceiling. He got busy with a biro and a paper napkin, not on the nice linen ones, and drew a quick picture. When Moira’s father was distracted, he slipped it under his plate. When the waitress came to clear the plates, the napkin fluttered down and landed in front of Moira’s father right way up and around. He stared down at an uncannily accurate drawing of him wearing a smug expression, an Elizabethan ruff and two horns growing out of his head. What made it worse was the waitress giggled. He angrily ripped it up and threw it on the floor while Edge turned away, sharing a joke with Morrison.
This was very much a family wedding, or to be precise it was a wedding for Moira’s family. Edge’s mother had died in late 1997 but his father was there in the church, remained for the wedding meal and then disappeared around 16:00. Edge hadn’t even noticed. They would have been lucky if they exchanged more than fifty words.
“Where’s your Dad?” Moira asked.
“Mark, it’s a bit rude.”
“Did he speak to you?”
“Only to say: good luck, you’ll need it.”
“So there you go. Missing but not missed.”
“Sometimes, Mark, I just don’t understand you. He’s the only family you’ve got. You just don’t seem yourself at the moment. Does your side hurt?”
“I have a sister as well, but she couldn’t make it. Probably washing her hair. Oh, and I’ve got an uncle, but he’s too frail to travel from Scotland. The Edge family have never been what you would call close, unlike your Mum and Dad.”
Before the evening function Edge and Morrison made use of the hotel’s pool and chatted before going up to their rooms to get changed into Mufti. In the warm water they watched other guests splashing about while the rain lashed down on the roof.
“Where you going on honeymoon, Edgie?”
“I hear Dubrovnik is nice this time of year.”
Morrison stared at him, “You are bloody joking.”
“Of course I am. I’ve bought a three-bedroom cottage on the River Torridge, about ten miles south of here. So the money’s a bit tight. I’m going to introduce Moira to the delights of the Scottish Monroes.”
Morrison stared at him with a strange, half-smile playing at the corners of his mouth, “I would never have thought it of you, Edgie. You are so lucky. Moira is gorgeous. Please tell me you won’t fuck it up with that temper of yours.”
Later, they would both have cause to reflect on Morrison’s plea from the heart with a certain amount of irony. No wedding is complete without a family row or a good fight. That evening, Moira was doing the good hostess bit and chatting with the guests. She was sitting next to Angela and Morrison had his back to the room, listening politely, hoping that Moira would piss off in the nicest possible way, so that he could continue schmoozing. Suddenly Moira looked over her shoulder and she froze.
“Who the bloody hell invited him?” she demanded.
Angela turned round, following her icy stare, “Oh Christ, it’s Daz!”
Morrison turned round and looked at the man who seemed to have a couple of friends in tow. He was tall and well-built with dark, curly hair. Almost like a traveller who had settled down somewhere where the pickings were easy. He didn’t know just how accurate his appreciation was. The man looked round the room and caught Morrison’s eye. He winked and nodded sarcastically.
“My bastard father,” Moira said and scurried off to find him, incandescent with rage.
“Who’s that?” Morrison asked Angela.
“His name’s Daniel Copeland and he is a complete cock. I prefer to call him Torchy the Battery Boy. You should ask Mickie why. I’m afraid that both Moira and me have gone out with him in the past.”
Meanwhile, Moira was venting her anger on her doting daddy, “Why the bloody hell did you say he could come?”
“Because he’s a good man to have in the business and I count him as a personal friend. He’s loyal, hard-working and you could do a lot worse than settle down with a man like Daz Copeland, oh hang on, you already have.”
“If there is any trouble, it will be your responsibility!” she hissed at her father and stormed off to warn Edge. She could envisage a disaster looming over the evening.
Edge tolerated the reception but really wanted to whisk Moira away to a hotel they had booked further up the coast for a bit of wedding night passion. He kept a wary eye on Mr Copeland who seemed rather well known to Moira’s family and associates. He was being really good and even bought Moira’s father a drink. Predictably he went for an expensive single malt.
“Edge raised his glass, “Your very good health Mr Tremain.”
“Just think, Frank. Next time I take Moira to heaven and back, it’ll be legal.”
Mr Tremain’s eyes darkened. It wasn’t a long conversation.
Later, a tall, thick-set man grinned at Edge, “So you’re the lucky groom eh?
“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, although he wanted to smash his glass in this leering prick’s face.
“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 Marjorie fucking 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.”
An hour or so later Morrison was at the bar getting some drinks, “We’ll be off soon, Henry. Thanks for coming and doing your stuff.”
“Good luck, Edgie. Remember what I said and treat her nice. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”
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.
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!”
He walked out of the room, past the toilets and conference rooms, down the long corridor to the reception and the car park. He scanned the walls and ceiling for security cameras. Meanwhile, Daz had gathered his posse. At intervals along the corridor the fire doors were open on magnetic locks but the end ones were shut. He pushed through them and when he heard the fire doors opening behind him, Morrison turned and ran at them, hitting them with all his weight and momentum. He was moving very fast.
The heavy door with its fire glass hit Daz in the face ramming him backwards. 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 wasn’t going to risk breaking knuckles on this piece of shit. He was on his feet and going for the second most obvious threat, Daz’s wingman who had composed himself and looked as though he wanted to be tasty. As he advanced on him, Morrison pointed upwards. He couldn’t help himself and looked up and Morrison’s knee smashed upwards into his groin. He went down with an ooohff and puked beer onto the carpet. Morrison looked at the third man and smiled grimly. The man decided that Daz wasn’t that good a friend and ran back towards the back door to the pool.
Morrison didn’t have long. He went back to Daz, who was bleeding profusely from both nostrils.
“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?”
Daniel Copeland was past understanding for now. Morrison went back to the reception room and smiled at Angela, sliding in next to her. He had been gone for less than three minutes.
“Are you all right? Where’s Daz,”
“He and his mates have gone. Where’s Edgy?”
“He and Moira have gone too.”
“Didn’t see them come past my way, which is probably just as well because Daz was feeling a bit under the weather.”
She gave him an old fashioned look, “They sneaked away about half-an-hour ago. Moira’s mum isn’t very happy about it.”
”In which case, let’s finish these drinks and make use of the sauna and pool. They should be quiet now.”
Edge despite his absences was a constant in Moira’s life, as she was in his. She made a home for them and decorated the tired décor of the cottage with the help of Angela’s friends. She also had two wood burners installed, one to heat the water and during the fitting she found that the roof by the chimney needed some attention. Moira’s father suggested Daz do the work at first, but his daughter’s violent reaction stunned him. In many ways, Frank Tremain was a thick, insensitive bastard. She weaned herself off her mother to a degree, but still visited for Sunday dinners.
Unfortunately Daz was also one of the constants in Moira’s life. He would unexpectedly just happen to “bump” into her in the town, in the supermarket, he would find an excuse to pop round to see her father on a Sunday. If he was hoping to wear her down he was having the opposite effect. Angela told her that he had picked a fight with Morrison at her wedding and when she heard what had happened, she laughed. What neither of them realised was the depths and intensity of Daz’s hatred towards the British Army, Moira’s husband and their best man who had shattered the roots of his two incisal front teeth. The cost of bridgework was beyond Daz’s means, so he wore a cobalt-chrome framework denture to fill the gap. He fantasised about raping Moira and strangling her with bailing twine as he came. The toxicity of his thoughts frightened even him sometimes.
“Serves him right!” Moira said with feeling, “He came in spoiling for a fight, so he got what he deserved. I hate him! Anyway, what about you and your beau?”
Angela looked at her sadly, “I really like him. Really, really like him. But I’m afraid that he’s just not the marrying kind. Ever the bridesmaid, that’s me.”
The other constant in Moira’s life was Edge who came home whenever he could. When he was away on operations she knew but never asked where he was. Sometimes he would phone her on a satellite phone from God knows where. She would hear helicopters or vehicles in the background.
In 2002 Moira realised she was pregnant and in early 2003 Edge went incommunicado on Ops. She didn’t even have to try to guess where in the world he was this time. He made it home for the birth of his daughter Sarah in the late summer and was outwardly delighted. But for all of his delight and cuddling of his daughter, Moira detected a subtle change in Edge that became more noticeable over the next few years. Whatever had happened during his tour in Iraq in 2003, he wouldn’t discuss it. Edge had always liked a drink or three, but now he was medicating with it to sleep.
But they were still very much in love, passionate and his son was born in 2006 after his second tour in Iraq. Edge had got his way with naming Sarah, but Moira insisted on calling the boy Francis. They skirmished over the issue, rather than declaring open warfare and she got her way.
Whilst having a spot of leave in 2008, Edge was gathering wood for the winter and became slightly alarmed at the amount of vermin occupying the cottage’s out-houses. They hadn’t made inroads into their home yet, but it was only a matter of time. He discussed it with Moira.
“Why don’t we get a cat?” she suggested.
“I don’t like cats.”
“It can be like a farm cat, which lives outside. We probably won’t even see it, except to feed it once a day. I’ve heard you have to give them some food to stimulate hunting.”
Edge reluctantly agreed and Moira came home with a tabby kitten in a shoe box. Sarah and Frances were delighted and wanted to call him Willum after Pusscat Willum. Again Edge put his foot down and Monty, Ratter Class One joined the family. Predictably, he became a pet with part-time rodent prevention duties, but he was spoiled. He showed his gratitude as a kitten by pissing on Edge’s Buffalo jacket.
As the end of Edge’s Army career approached, he elected to return to his Donor Regiment for resettlement as he wanted to avoid security jobs. Or rather the Mercian Regiment as the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment no longer existed. He was a stranger in their midst and widely distrusted because of his background.
As his terminal leave approached, Edge became despondent as he had promised Moira that they would settle in Devon, and being effectively rootless, it was his home as well. But jobs were of a seasonal nature in that part of the country and permanent employment was few and far between for a man of Edge’s “talents.” Like very many ex-Service men and women, he was poor at selling himself and found it difficult to transfer his experiences and training into key outputs and core skills required on the job application forms.
Moira’s father had made a very successful business supplying agricultural machinery and products to the smaller farms with smaller, enclosed fields in that part of the world. His daughter moved into action, hinting, badgering and in the end begging her father to give Edge a job. Her father relented as much for his daughter’s sake as the desire to see Edge dependent on him. He offered him the job of delivery driver, take-it-or-leave it. Edge took it and hated himself for it. Part of him resented Moira as well.
He was sitting in front of the wood burner, cradling a large glass of red wine, staring morosely into the flames. He was due to start work the following Monday. Moira sat next to him and stroked his cheek affectionately.
“Don’t worry, Mark. It’s a new chapter of your life opening, a safer one,” She nuzzled in close to his neck.
Edge played with her ear and smiled at her, but she noticed that lately, the warmth never seemed to reach his eyes.
One hot August day, Edge was sent on a longer delivery run to Cornwall that would take a couple of days. Moira was off work because the glass factory was temporally closed as the furnaces and kilns were being reconditioned. She had been tidying the children’s bedrooms while they were at school. She didn’t hear the pick-up drive into the yard, but became aware of someone hammering on the cottage door. She went down to open it. It was Daniel Copeland.
“Oh, it’s you. What do you want, Daz and what are you doing here?”
“Your old Dad asked me to keep an eye on you, seeing as how Mark’s away for a couple of days.”
“As you can see, I’m fine. How did you know I wasn’t at work?”
“Like I said, your Dad asked me to make sure you’re OK and here I am, making sure.”
“I’m truly grateful to both of you, now if you’ll excuse me.”
“I’ve driven all the way from Tiverton and I could murder a drink, Moira.”
She hesitated and I could hear the doubt in her voice.
“Just a quick cuppa,” he wheedled.
“You’ll have to make it quick coz I’m very busy, Daz.”
“Thanks, it’s hot out there and I’m parched.”
She made him a tea that he would never drink. In the end she ejected him from the house at knife point, him with a bleeding neck and torn shirt, her with a bruised and aching breast. She decided never to tell Edge what had happened because she feared the repercussions. It was the worst mistake she ever made.
© Blown Periphery 2020