War Crimes Chapter 25 – War Crimes

Blown Periphery, Going Postal
Photo by Gavin Spear on Unsplash

Chapter 25 – War Crimes

When this was first run, there were a few comments regarding the process of zeroing a weapon. Yes I have zeroed a target rifle and know what a drawn-out process this can be. There has to be a balance between the running of a narrative, readability and technical accuracy. The bottom line is, if it was good enough for Fredrick Forsyth in the Day of the Jackal, whose character zeroed a rifle with a string bag and a melon, then it’s good enough for me.

By October the trees along the Torridge were a beautiful sweep of yellows and oranges. The recent heavy rains had swollen the river, which tumbled over the weirs and fallen trees in the race to the sea. The woods that glowered above the river valley were still dark. The air smelled strongly of the coming winter. It was the 16th and there were two remarkable events that day. Edge was chopping last year’s logs for his wood burner and piling them up in the lean-to. It was 10:00, so he hadn’t started drinking yet. The boat was going in for the end-of-season overhaul and the only work available was on the tourist fishing boats. He hated those pricks from London with all the gear, but no idea. His pension continued to pay the small mortgage and the CSA’s legalised extortion. He hadn’t seen his wife and children since March. What worried him the most was that he didn’t care.
Edge felt relatively upbeat. He had recently sold two paintings: A study of Appledore from across the Torridge and a portrait of an old fisherman, smoking a pipe outside a pub. The photographs had been taken from the other side of the river with one of his ridiculously large telephoto lenses. Edge was a voyeur and had taken the photograph of the fisherman at 900 metres from the cover of a wood above East–the-Water, just to keep his hand in. The exposure was perfect. He was a talented artist, but an exceptional photographer. The Army had trained him well.

His back was beginning to stiffen from swinging the axe, when he saw the Vauxhall Insignia turn off the road and head up the track. It was a big car and a small, muddy track. Edge would never associate with anyone who drove black, Vauxhall Insignias. This could be trouble, so he tucked the axe in the lean-to, but it was still within easy reach. He watched the car stop at the end of his drive, well more of an opening into the property.

Edge slipped into another, earlier iteration of himself. There are two men in the car. Driver fifties. Passenger thirties. Driver suit. Too small for him now. Tight across the chest. Fucking Plod. Old Plod. Passenger, not Plod. Reaching behind to get something from the back seat. Gun? Do I need to go in now, fast and hard? No, not a gun, a camera. Press? Plod and press in collusion? Not really likely. Stand down from murderous intent.

“Can I help you?” asked Edge.

The man was in his fifties. He was used to having some authority, but the mud in Edge’s drive rather robbed him of any dignity and decorum of whatever position he held may have given him. He stepped gingerly across the firmer ground to avoid the puddles. He was holding a brown envelope.

“Are you Mark Edge, formerly Staff Sergeant Edge?”

“And you are..?

“Detective Sergeant Warberton.”

“Let’s see your warrant card, Pal.”

“I’m retired, but I represent the…”

“I don’t care who you represent. Get your arse off my property.”

“…The Iraq Historical Abuse Tribunal.”

“The what?”

“IHAT. We are investigating historical cases of war crimes, committed by British Service personnel, between 2003 and 2011 in Iraq during Operation Telic.”

“Are you taking the piss, Mr Warberton?”

“I have hereby served notification on you,” he tapped Edge on the shoulder with the envelope and tried to thrust it into his hands, “Staff Sergeant Edge, you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if…”

“And it may harm your bollocks if you don’t get back into your big, flashy car and fuck off back to under the stone from which you have crawled.” Edge purposely glanced at the axe in the lean-to.

“Please don’t threaten me, Staff Sergeant Edge. I have a warrant that I will issue once you have read the documents and the allegations against you. My colleague over by the car is filming you, so I would strongly advise against physical violence. I will return tomorrow to interview you under caution. I advise you to make a point of being in.”

The retired copper slipped and squelched his way back to the car, “I’d bring some wellies with you next time, Mr Warberton,” Edge suggested helpfully.

“I will be back tomorrow, Edge. You can count on it.”

Edge shook his head and picked up the envelope, which was with assorted papers. He went into the kitchen and filled a tumbler with the dregs of last night’s Merlot. Edge opened the envelope and swiftly went through the top papers, resplendent with the IHAT’s governmental logo. In the paperwork below, he came across the specific allegations against him, compiled by a legal company that had its own headed paper. The Community Legal Notaries.

Staff Sergeant M Edge (complete with Service number) is accused of unlawfully killing a Mr Muhammad Al Jazari on the 28th October 2005 in Amarah in Maysan Province Amarah. Staff Sergeant Edge did unlawfully open fire on Mr Al Jazari without issuing a verbal warning, in contravention of then current Rules of Engagement outlined on Card Alpha.

Mr Al Jarzi was unarmed at the time of the shooting and at no time during the event did he engage in any violent action towards Staff Sergeant Edge or any British troops. Given these circumstances it is deemed that Staff Sergeant Edge’s actions transgressed any definition of the use of reasonable force. In addition, Mr Anah Ahamad and Mr Jamail Hamdani are seeking recompense from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for mental trauma, caused when Mr Al Jarzi was unlawfully killed in front of them.
Edge read the documents a second time with a sense of growing disbelief. He drained the tumbler and opened a second bottle of wine. As he went through the documents more thoroughly, it became clear to Edge that all of his personal details had been passed on to Community Legal Notaries by civil servants in the MoD, including details concerning an operation he thought was Secret UK/US Eyes Only.

The second remarkable event was heralded by the kitchen door opening slightly behind him. Edge felt the hair on the back of his neck rise in fear and then bold as brass, Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, strolled into the kitchen and jumped up on the table. He sat down opposite Edge and said: “Meow!”

Monty was a tabby cat of around seven human years of age. He was supposed to be the kids’ cat but the little looking after he required, they didn’t do it. Edge was convinced he had gone with Moira and the kids, but the lure of his own territory must have overcome his dislike of Edge.

“Bloody hell, Monty. You look like shit.”

The cat was thin, his fur matted and he walked with a pronounced limp. There was a tear in his right ear, crusty with blood and a partially-healed scar ran from his right eye to his nose. He had made the ten mile journey back to his home and judging by the state of him, the journey had not been uneventful. Edge cleaned the cat’s wounds with white vinegar and removed a large thorn from a front paw. This was accompanied by much yowling, hissing, biting and scratching. He also cleaned the wounds in his own hands with the vinegar. He found a basket and stuffed an old blanket in it, lit the wood burner and opened a tin of tuna, which Monty turned up his nose at.

“It’s all I’ve got, so you’d better bloody eat it.”

Nevertheless Edge walked into Bideford and came back with cat food. That evening they both sat in the kitchen in front of a very hot wood burner. Edge told him the facts of life.

“I don’t know why you came back, Monty. I’m a cuckold, a drunk and a fucking war criminal.”

“Meow,” the cat agreed.

* * *

Warberton and his sidekick returned the following morning, as promised. Edge watched the car come up the lane from his observation post in the hedge. It turned in and it was the same routine as yesterday; Warberton got out and made his way to the cottage’s door while the wingman came out of the car and laid the camera on its roof. Edge was amused to see they were both wearing country jackets and Bekina wellies, brand new on expenses from the outdoor shop in Barnstaple. Edge slipped out of cover and came up silently behind the cameraman, reaching over and grabbing the digital SLR. He opened the flap on the camera’s base and removed the battery pack. The sheer speed and commitment of Edge’s move left the cameraman powerless and speechless.

“I’ll give this to your boss when you leave,”

Warberton watched Edge approach him, “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“And you know very well, that you shouldn’t be filming me. I spent a long time on the IHAT website, so I’m absolutely up to speed as to what you can and can’t do or say. Now, would you like to come in and have a cup of tea? I’ll even take one out to your pal, or he can come in if he wants.”

Warberton seemed taken aback, but waved to his companion to come in with him. The inside of the kitchen had been cleared of bottles and tidied. There was the smell of coffee and baking bread in the oven. Monty’s basket had been moved into the utility room and the cat was outside somewhere, murdering smaller, furry creatures.

“Please sit down, Mr Warberton,” Edge gestured to the kitchen table.

“Actually, it’s…” he began but decided it wasn’t worth it. He did sit down. His colleague came in, still angry and confused.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us, Mr Warberton?”

“This is Aspinall.”

“Ex police?”

“No, civil investigator,” Aspinall said rather resentfully.

Edge nodded sagely, “So you pair are what IHAT calls a “pod?”


“Right, gentlemen, let’s start with the basics. I am no longer a Staff Sergeant. You are no longer a Detective Sergeant. We will conduct this meeting as Edge, Mr Warberton and Mr Aspinall.”

“Now wait a minute…”

“Sorry, where are my manners. What would you like? Tea or coffee.”

“Err coffee please,” Aspinall said, “No milk or sugar.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Warberton said in frustration.

“I take it you want tea, milk and two sugars? If you’d only come a bit later we could have some bread rolls and jam, but they’ve only been in the oven ten minutes.”

“Can we please stop messing around?”

Edge raised his eyebrows, ever the attentive host.

“Oh for God’s sake. Tea, milk, two sugars.”

“Standard NATO. Good choice.”

He gave out the drinks and sat down at the head of the table, facing the door.

“Now before we start, we’ll be taking notes and we may ask you for clarification over certain details,” Warberton said opening a black notebook.

“Absolutely fine. And just to let you know that I’m making an audio and visual recording of this meeting,” Edge told them, indicating with his head where the camera was located on top of the Welsh Dresser.

“Now wait a bloody minute!” Warberton said angrily, you can’t…”

“I’m in my own property, I can do what I like within reason. Now before we start, I wonder if you can explain to me, how a civilian firm of lawyers has information regarding a military operation that I may or may not have been involved in. An operation that was classified as Secret UK/US Eyes Only? Can you explain to me how you and your associate are party to this information?”

“Don’t be bloody ridiculous!”

Edge looked at Aspinall who was looking sharply at his boss with a concerned expression, he was gratified to note and he decided to press home the advantage.

“In fact it isn’t a case of what I do or don’t say, because I have no intention of saying anything to you without legal representation. Furthermore, I believe that you have identified a major security breach, for which I will have to inform the Serious Organised Crime Agency.”

Edge knew that he was kicking the arse out of it with the last statement, but he knew it would be enough to stall these two clowns for the time being. Warberton rose up to leave, Aspinall following his boss.

“We’ll be back, with an arrest warrant next time.”

“Was the tea and coffee not to your liking? By the way, shouldn’t you have given me a pack-up, Warberton, the one with all the Service charities and NHS mental health providers I can go to for help and advice? Don’t forget this, Aspinall,” Edge threw the battery pack and Aspinall made a fumbling catch.

He heard the car start up and reverse out of the property. He put his feet on the table and grinned up at the camera. It had been a textbook piece of conditioning: disorientate, keep moving, use surprise, keep them off balance and never allow the enemy to regroup. His instructors would have been proud of him. Edge reached in his pocket. He had given up drinking, but needed something to replace it. The old standby he used on operations. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and coughed. The cat sauntered in and registered his disapproval with a stare.

“Oh do fuck off, Monty.”

The throbbing headache he developed took some of the shine off the rest of the day and it kept him awake until he fell asleep exhausted in the early hours.

Edge did contact the various organisations and Service charities and while they were sympathetic and could provide advice on representation and financial hardship, they were unable to influence or even approach IHAT whilst an investigation was ongoing and Edge’s was one of the more serious as it involved an actual killing.

* * *

The police arrived at the end of October at 0530 in two police cars and a riot van. They searched his property for six hours and took away a standalone computer, an old digital bridge camera, assorted CDs and DVDs and an MP3 player and an old Nokia phone. The unmarked police car conducting surveillance on him and his property, promptly fucked off when Edge took out two mugs of cocoa on a tray to the occupants. He waited three days and went down to the river at night to check if his laptop, cameras and other equipment was still safe under the overhanging tree root system. The Torridge was still in full flow, but they were out of the water, well secured and tucked back into the bank in waterproof diving bags he used when on the boats. He retrieved some paperwork with a view to going through it. Some of it was the stuff from his uncle.

The work on boats was drying up as winter approached and Edge was feeling bored and withdrawal symptoms and smoking made him edgy and caused stomach cramps and upsets. He was interviewed under caution by a different “pod,” much more polite and professional this time but said absolutely nothing. He revisited the journal from the Korean War, sober this time and became fascinated with the map of his Uncle’s “Cache.” He took a trip to Barnstaple and purchased a 1:25,000 scale map of the Central Highlands of Scotland. He spent hours poring over it with an angle poise lamp on the kitchen table. After endless coffees and cigarettes, plus irritating cat’s paw prints on the map, he had pinpointed the position of the corner of the wood and the high tension line. He cross-referenced the area from Google Maps, accessed from the local library in Bideford. In the finest traditions of a Blue Peter presenter, Edge cut out the area of the map he would need and covered it with sticky back plastic, the same for a photocopy of his uncle’s map.

During the next week, Edge visited Exeter, Truro and Plymouth. He made a large number of unremarkable cash withdrawals from various savings accounts and purchased a list of outdoor clothing and equipment, paid for by cash. Back at home, he put these newly-acquired items in the river cache under the tree roots. By November he was ready. He was pondering what to do about Monty as he hedged the treeline area of his property by the lane. Edge felt better, but he still wasn’t sleeping brilliantly. At least the shakes and stomach cramps had gone. As he swung on a hazel to pull it into the hedge line, he became aware of an elderly lady watching him from the lane. She lived about four properties away. She had keen, little eyes and twisted, grey hair sticking from under a waxed bonnet. Edge wondered how long she had been watching him.

“Morning,” he said.

“Morning,” she replied, watching him keenly.

“Err, can I help you….?”

“No. I see they haven’t arrested you yet.”


“The pigs. They’ve been keeping a rare old eye on you. You being a bit of a lad, an all.”

Edge dropped the billhook and stared at the old lady with a sense of reality spinning away from him.

“It was in the papers. But I don’t take any notice of the bollocks they print in the rags.”

Edge had been conditioned, disorientated and kept off balance by an elderly lady. He was hooked, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

She seemed to think about it, “All right.”

In his kitchen they both lit up while the kettle boiled. Edge coughed more than she did.

“You were in the Army weren’t you? You’re wife’s gone and taken your kids.”

“That’s pretty much it,” Edge agreed.

“You were a silly boy last Christmas, weren’t you?”

“It was the New Year, actually.”

She inhaled deeply and blew out a thin, blue plume of smoke, “And the police are being bastards to you. Because they don’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve served. That’s because you worry them.”

Edge poured the teas, “Milk and sugar?”

“No thanks, watching my weight. Well go on then, three.”

They stared at one another over the rims of tea mugs.

“I see your cat came back.”

“Well, he isn’t really mine. He was the ch….”

“He’s yours now. But he comes into my house.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right. I feed him. I like him. He brings me mice. Mostly they’re dead.”

“Actually, Mrs….” She declined to help him, “I was wondering if…”

“Look after him while you go away for a few days.”
Edge put down his mug and stared at her, “Look Mrs, whatever your name is. I know I’ve seen you many times around, but this is the first time you’ve spoken to me. Why?”

“Because I feel sorry for you. Because the bottom has fallen out of your life and at the moment the only company you have is a tabby cat.”

Edge began to feel annoyed, “I’m sure I don’t need an old lady to feel sorry for me!”

Yes I know, you can manage that perfectly well yourself.”

“I think you should go now. I’ll find a cattery.”

“How old do you think I am, Mr Edge?”

“Look, I don’t bloody know.”

“I’m probably about fifteen years older than you, if that.”

“Well, that’s what I thought.”

“Don’t bloody lie to me. I look like this because it’s my own fault. It’s called heroin chic,” she grinned and showed a mouthful of missing teeth, “I was an “It” girl. A topless dancer in London clubs during the very late 60s and most of the 70s. At least that was how I started out. The clubs became seedier and then they wanted me to give “extras.” There came a time when I wouldn’t give a shit what I did as long as it involved getting the next fix. We’ve met before, you know,” she told him.

“I don’t recall that.”

“It was April 1977.”

Edge scoffed, “Don’t be so bloody daft, I was only seven and I lived in Nuneaton with my mum and Dad.”

She sucked on the cigarette, “You looked exactly like you do now. Hair a bit longer, more suntanned, but you had that bloody big scar on your forehead. That’s how I recognised you. It frightened me. You frightened me, but you saved my life. I could have loved you, you know.”

“You’re off your head, with respect,”

“Right, now listen! The rifle fires one or two more rounds, then stops again. Come on! Cock, hook and look. No for fucks sake, that’s the IA drill for the SLR. We’re on the L85. The clue is one or two more rounds then stops again. It’s a fucking gas stoppage. What are you going to do?”

Edge put his mug down on the table, his hands shaking slightly, “How do you know that?”

“Because you told it to me in 1977, to keep me awake and stop me falling into a junkie coma. There are many things in heaven and on earth that we don’t understand. Just accept that they are,” she pushed her chair away from the table, “It’s been nice talking to you, Mark Edge, former Staff Sergeant 22 SAS. Let me know when you want me to look after your cat.”

After she had gone Edge sat at the table in stunned silence. Despite the fact she hadn’t introduced herself, he knew with absolute clarity that her name was Cynthia Penrith.

Edge left the next morning at 0400, kicking out an indignant Monty and putting his basket, food and water in the lean-to. He headed south-east on the side roads to Tiverton to avoid Devon and Cornwall’s finest. It added at least an hour to his journey, but the first police car he spotted was near Bristol. His first refuelling stop was north of Birmingham on the M6, the second south of Glasgow. He arrived in Perth at 15:00 and managed to get a room in the second hotel he tried, paying for three nights by cash. He slept for five hours and got up, slipping out of the hotel unnoticed.

He drove northeast and picked up the A822, heading north until the road branched off to the left, following the River Almond up the valley towards Auchnafree and the estate. Predictably it was raining when he pulled the car into the cover of dank, evergreen trees. Edge shouldered a small rucksack that held a poncho, para-cord, a sleeping bag, bivvy-bag, a folded and rolled carry bag, a Coleman stove, puritabs and food and two litre canteens of water. Perhaps the most important tool was a lightweight, folding entrenching tool, strapped to the pack. He had three layers on the top, a wicking undershirt, a Buffalo jacket and Gortex shell. His boots were Haix’s finest, and Berghaus gaiters. A hat for warmth but ears uncovered. (Please note, there are other brands of outdoor clothing available). He headed north, following a surging burn tumbling down from the hills and a harsh, slippery climb lay ahead.

As part of his training Edge had spent a week with an RAF Mountain Rescue Team in Scotland.

“You’ll love it. A nice easy-osy week with the Crabs. Decent accommodation and food and with their levels of fitness you’ll be lucky to break a sweat.”

The food and accommodation were first rate, at least on the first night and the last night before he returned to his unit. The six days between were spent in the mountains, well above the snow line. They slept out in blizzards, covering over twenty miles a day. A cocky little ginger, Scouse corporal was the team leader, and it was interesting to watch him yelling obscenities at an officer who had recently joined the team and had made a mess of tying off some ropes. The RAF certainly did things differently. By the end of the week he was physically exhausted, but understood the mountains and his limitations. He was grateful to see the huge, yellow Sea King flare and hover in a rotor blizzard to pluck them off the mountain.

After two hours and at 500 metres height he was almost at the crest onto the plateau, but he had discovered that starting smoking to stop drinking wasn’t the smartest of moves. He stopped briefly, soaked through with sweat rather than rain and got half the water bottle down. In cover he was steaming. It was very dark and he followed the path by keen night vision alone, remembering to look off-centre to give his eyes’ rods and cones the best chance. Finally on the plateau, Edge checked his map and marching compass with a cylume tucked inside his Gortex, (he preferred to do things the good, old-fashioned way. Aiming off, he hit the plantation of trees beyond the stone wall, then turned right, following the wall to the corner of the wood. There was no sign of the power cables. Edge crouched in the relative safety of the wall and consulted the tactical map with the cylume. He looked at the bearing on the compass, but there were no reference points in the darkness.

“Bugger,” said Edge. He decided to set up the poncho as shelter, cook a meal and wait until it got lighter. Once again he had developed a throbbing headache and he rubbed his eyes. Once out of the wind and rain. He cranked up the Coleman stove and heated some soup. He snatched some sleep, tucked in the Gortex bivvy bag and a few hours later, there was a greyish tinge below the solid overcast. Forming out of the gloom was the dark, upright structure. As dawn came closer it was obvious that the structure was the leg of a pylon.

Edge clambered stiffly out of the bivvy bag, took the map’s compass bearing on a tussock about 100 metres away and paced out the distance. After the requisite number of paces he placed down a water bottle. He moved to the south-easterly leg of the pylon and paced the requisite amount on a different bearing, taken from the tactical map and put down the second water bottle. The two bottles were about three metres apart, not a bad margin of error given pace length and magnetic variation. Then he started to do a two-metre, ten-metre search, spreading out from a point equidistant between the water bottles. He found the flat stone covered with heather after ten minutes and marked it. Expanding the search showed no other obvious feature, so he went back to the stone, unfolded the entrenching tool and started to dig.

The stone was large but broad and shallow, so he was digging underneath it and beginning to feel rather foolish. Still, the exercise was good for him. It was almost fully light by the time the blade of the entrenching tool hit something solid. Edge dug more carefully and revealed something that was wrapped in heavy duty plastic. It took him a further hour to free it and pull it from under the stone. He instinctively knew what it was, but continued to excavate the hole to find a smaller package, again wrapped in plastic. The second package rattled and again he was pretty certain as to what it was. He continued to dig but found nothing else. He backfilled the hole and tried to leave no trace of his having dug the site, then put the two packages in the carry bag and strapped it to the side of the rucksack.

By the time Edge had broken his camp and made his way back to the car it was after 10:00. He drove into Perth and had breakfast at a supermarket and went back to the hotel. His wet, bedraggled appearance raised no comments as the staff were used to serious hill walkers staying with them. Edge left the carry bag in the car but took the rucksack up to his room. While most of the staff were dealing with the lunch orders he retrieved it and opened the packages in the bath, having to cut them open with his Leathermans.

Edge was looking at a hunting rifle, the stock and butt had been unscrewed from the barrel and working parts and a telescopic sight. The second package contained two boxes of .308 Winchester ammunition.

“What the fuck, Uncle Jack?”

He cleaned and assembled the rifle that afternoon. The barrel was slightly rusty and there was a small amount of corrosion on the face of the bolt. The optics of the telescopic sight were beyond repair. After dinner and checking that the coast was clear, he put the rifle and ammunition in the boot of the car, knowing from this point on, he was committing a serious offence.

The next morning Edge purchased some items from the B&Q store in Perth, including Scotchbright, two types of oil, lint-free cloth, a two-part epoxy resin and some heavy-duty twine. At an outdoor pursuit and gun shop he bought a Leupold 9×40 telescopic sight for £250 cash, a bore sight for £16 and an A1 flipboard pad and marker pens from an office and stationary outlet. From WH Smiths he purchased a 1:2500 walking map of the Cairngorms National Park and noted a likely spot. Edge picked up the A9 and headed north, turning into the heart of the Park at Braemar. Half an hour later he pulled off the road, cleaned and assembled the rifle and telescopic sight with the help of his trusty Leathrmans. Using the twine twisted and small pads of cut Scotchbright to pull through, he cleaned the barrel. Satisfied the rust had gone, he pulled through some cloth and oil. Edge put one box of ammunition, the pad and pens and the rifle in the carry bag and fashioned a rucksack arrangement out of some straps.

By the afternoon he was in the heart of the Cairngorms and hadn’t seen another soul since Braemar. It was late in the season and unseasonably cold for November. There wasn’t much wind and the heavy, glowering sky threatened snow. He was in a wide valley following a large stream that ran straight for some 500 metres before twisting sharp right. The outcurve of the river had cut a deep bank and this area would be ideal for what he wanted. The stream was out of what little wind there was. Edge took out the flipchart pad and coloured in a black 4” square in the centre of the sheet. He put it on the bank weighted by stones so that the sheet of paper hung down. He paced out 100 metres from the paper along the bank and found a position where he could lie with the rifle fully supported. Edge cleaned and wiped six rounds of the Winchester ammunition and took up a firing position.

With the correct bore sight adaptor in the barrel and tightened, he sighted and adjusted it until the green laser was in the centre of the paper.  After steadying the rifle with his rucksack and rocks, Edge then aligned the sights to the laser mark with his Leathermans and removed the bore sight.  The first shot was hard against his shoulder, the .308 round kicking like a mule. Through the sight he could see the hole in the centre of the paper. Edge paced out a further 100 metres and fired two shots. This time he had to jog back to the target and was gratified to see both were still in the black square. He jogged back to the rifle and moved back a further 200 metres so he was firing at a range of 400 metres. He fired two rounds, putting the cross-hairs just above the black square. Back at the target the rounds were level with, but slightly to the right of the square.

Edge knew that he would have to aim off slightly at 400 metres. He moved quickly, burning the paper and wrapping the rifle and putting it in the carry bag. He jogged away wanting to clear the area before anyone came to investigate and to avoid the impending snow. Back at the car he covered the telescopic sight’s adjustment screws with epoxy resin, locking the settings.

The next day and night, Edge drove home, briefly stopping at Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham during the night. He stole three sets of number plates from the cars of the same type and colour. He chose the older style of plates that wouldn’t break up whilst being removed, but even so he was very careful. The rifle was wired and cable tied in the car’s engine compartment, wrapped in silver foil and insulation. It would escape a cursory search of his car, the types of searches the police undertake when they have to be seen to be doing something, or just as a weapon of general harassment. The number plates joined it. The following night, all of the items joined the cache under the tree roots that overhung the river.

© Blown Periphery 2020