Chapter 35 – Angela and Moira’s Stories
She was asleep when her phone started ringing, her mobile that very few people knew her number. Angela groaned and fumbled for her glasses and then the phone and just as she picked up it stopped ringing. The glowing screen said: One missed call – K.C. Sunshine. She immediately called back.
“Where are you?” he asked. She could hear the wind so knew he was outdoors.
“At my own place. I was getting on Moira’s nerves and she was glad to see the back of me. She still has the up and under you provided. Has it been done?”
“Yes, she won’t need it any more. I’ll explain when I get to you.”
“Where are you?”
“Appledore. Just dropped the boat off with her father. I’ll be with you in thirty minutes.”
“It’s just after four. Can’t it wait?”
“No. I have something very important that I must tell you.”
He rang off and Angela sighed and made herself a cup of tea. Then waited.
* * *
She watched him come out of the shower and wrap a dressing gown round himself. When he had come in he was reeking of smoke, petrol and something else. It reminded her of when her mother had burned a pork roast joint, after too many lagers in the club on a Sunday. But now he smelled good and she would never tire of watching Henry Morrison.
“I’m going to have to burn those clothes,” he told her and sipped a coffee. It was getting light outside, “And those boots, more’s the pity. I loved those boots.”
“Has he gone? I mean properly gone, for ever?”
“There wasn’t much left of him after Edge burned him alive. Just a shrunken, little pigmy about four foot tall and all shrivelled up.”
“Good! I know of at least three women who he terrorised and whose lives he ruined,” she said with feeling, “There was Moira, obviously, another girl called Tina from Westward Ho! from a few years back… And me.”
Morrison looked at her and Angela looked down like she was ashamed, “I reckon I was the first, at least round here.”
“I’m glad you never told me that,” he said quietly.
“Why? Am I soiled merchandise, Henry?”
“No, because I would have killed him myself and saved Mark Edge the misery, the bother and probably the guilt.”
“Mickie sorted him out for me. He frightened the bastard to death, stripped him and took photographs of him, tied up in the buff in the woods.”
“Shame Mickie didn’t kill the bastard.”
“I asked him not to,” Angela said in a small voice, “Bad mistake, but…”
She started to giggle, “But he did stick a torch up his arse. A big one.”
Morrison chuckled then laughed out loud. God, how she loved him.
She went and sat next to him and he put his arm round her shoulder. They shared a long, companionable silence. Angela reluctantly broke it.
“Henry, when is Mark coming home? Moira knows that he isn’t dead.”
“When he has fully exorcised his demons.”
“Oh for God’s sake, Henry.”
“He exorcised the last one last night. He has something to do abroad and it’ll let the heat die down… If you’ll excuse the pun. He’s ready to come home.”
She detected a sudden reticence come over him, “Angela, there is something I have to say to you. I’m not really good at this and what I say might seem a bit clumsy, but hear me out, I beg you.
“I realise that I haven’t been totally honest with you. There is, or rather was someone that I loved, long before I met you,” he felt her stiffen, “I can’t tell you who it was, but I met her on operations and we shared, well we shared a lot. But we could never have shared our lives. There was so much between us, but the kind of stuff that is born in the intensity of operations, not the kind of love and respect you need to build a solid relationship. The sharing of souls, if you wish. But God was she brave.”
Angela was like a statue, leaning away from him, “So although you had this Joan of Arc to keep you nice and warm on operations, you needed a few shags when you came home and I fitted the bill nicely. Is that about the size of it?”
Morrison put his head in his hands, “Bugger! I knew that it would come out wrong. Look, Angela. What I’m trying to say in my ham-fisted way, is that I’ve come to realise that you are the most important thing in my life and I want to share whatever is left of it with you.”
“So rather than just pitching up on-spec for a bit of horizontal gymnastics, you’ll book me like a squash court? Give me a bit more notice?”
“I’m asking you to be my wife.”
She laughed, “What, like a bergen bride? One on every drop zone eh?”
“No. We live and make our lives together. For ever.”
“A proper marriage? The sort where I have a wee while you’re in the bath?”
“Yep. The kind where I fart in the bed and hold your head under the covers,” he affirmed.
“I’ll need to think about it. All right. You’re on.”
“You sure you don’t need more time?
“Henry. I’ve had over fifteen bloody years.”
* * *
In the May of the year Ron Gleam was murdered by a high powered rifle, Moira was interviewed by two Counter Terrorism Command police officers, a man and a woman. They wanted to know if she had been in contact with her husband and if she knew his whereabouts. This followed the shooting of a high-profile, civil rights lawyer at his Oxfordshire home.
“Mrs Edge, did your husband hold Nazi views?”
Moira though about the question, “No, he was never a socialist.”
She had learned a great deal through osmosis over the years.
The female detective sergeant smiled in a slightly patronising way, “No, I think you misunderstand. A Nazi, you know, like Hitler.”
“No, I think you misunderstand. My husband was never a member of the German National Socialist Workers Party, or Nazis. He never wore their uniforms or insignia, he doesn’t have his blood group tattooed in his armpit and in fact he didn’t even like Hugo Boss suits.
The female copper looked at her notes, getting flustered, “Errrr.”
“I think my colleague is trying to ask you if your husband had right wing tendencies,” the DI said coming to her aid.
“What do you mean by right wing?” Moira asked in an irritatingly way.
“Of for goodness sake, you must know what right wing means.”
“I know what it means to me. What does it mean to you?”
“Not to me it isn’t. Define right wing to me.”
“Did he hold any extreme views?”
“Well, sometimes he used to buy the Guardian. He said it was ‘for balance,’ but I had my doubts. Then he started buying the Daily Mail. That’s why I left him.”
They gave up and once back in their car compared notes.
“Well the bitch knows something. Put her under round-the-clock.”
Moira had learned a lot from Edge about the police and being followed in the weeks following his arrest. She twigged within a couple of days she was being followed by an unmarked car when she drove to work or picked the kids up from school. She asked for a day’s holiday the following day after asking Angela if she would pick up the kids and look after them until she got home.
That morning, Moira drove to a service station on the M5 near Exeter. She ordered a coffee, then made two calls using the public phone booths. One was to a Freephone number to a police charity, the other to her parents’ house. She reversed the charges, her mother accepted and she left the phone off the hook. She drove to RNAS Yeovilton and took some photographs of helicopters through the wire. Then she drove to St Budeaux in Plymouth and took some photographs of the submarines down in the naval base. She headed north and stopped at a service station at Launceston. She slipped out of a fire escape and headed towards the car that had been following her all day. It was empty, the two occupants inside looking for her. She slipped an envelope under a wiper blade. There was a simple note inside: If you’re going to waste my taxes, then I’m going to waste your time. Get off your arses and catch some real criminals. She drove home feeling pleased with herself.
The year became two, then three and Moira was convinced that Edge was still alive. One Monday she buttonholed Angela.
“Are you still in contact with Henry, our best man?”
Angela looked slightly embarrassed, “Only when we have a mutual itch that needs scratching.”
“Please ask him to pass this to Mark,” Moira said giving her an envelope.
“Moira, he’s dead. You have to accept that.”
“He isn’t,” Moira said fiercely, “When you give it to him, look into his eyes.”
* * *
Almost eight years to the day that she had walked out of Edge’s life and their home, Moira noticed a flashy car park outside her flat in Oakhampton. The car stopped and a well-dressed, professional looking woman stepped out. She glanced up at the flat and walked towards the front door.
“Mrs Edge, Moira Edge?”
The woman held up a briefcase, “I have some news that may surprise you. I represent a firm of solicitors in Barnstaple, here is my card. May I come in?”
* * *
One night over a year later, Moira slept in a strange, hypersensitive sleep that transcended the two worlds of the conscious and the other world we inhabit for twenty-five per-cent of our existence. She had had enough money and property to ensure she and her children would be comfortable for the rest of their lives. She had metamorphosed from an immature girl to a wife, a mother, a widow a single parent to an abandoned woman, who knew the only man she had ever loved was still alive somewhere. Despite the reports in the North Devon Gazette, she knew that Daniel Copeland had not burned himself alive. Above all in life, she wanted Mark Edge back to be close to her, whatever his faults and despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune they had suffered. Moira would wake in the early hours and remain awake for hours until she fell into the essential sleep and REM until dawn.
She was awake when she heard a noise from the bathroom and the hair on her arms and neck bristled. The temperature in the room plummeted. Her breath misted in front of her face. She had one thought that almost loosened her bladder.
Moira reached under the pillow for the carving knife.
He came into the room and pulled back the covers and slid in next to her. His heat was burning cold. He gently ran his finger from her forehead, down her nose and across her top lip.
“Moira, I’ve been so stupid. Please forgive me.”
“Moira, I’m so sorry. I wasted the best years of our lives.”
“I knew you were still alive.”
He smiled sadly.
“Because we’re human and fallible.”
They went into each other and Moira was taken back to a time eighteen years previously. She had no dreams and woke up to an almost forgotten scent and a bloody imprint on the pillow. When she went to pee the flow burned, jogging a memory of a Bristol hotel bedroom, so many years ago.
I snipped that lovely parachute badge off your tunic, Mark and I’ve still got it tucked into our book. You didn’t know I sowed a gold half-sovereign under it to keep you safe. But I couldn’t keep you safe from you, could I?
Very early the next morning, they stared at each other. “I’m sore. It’s been a long time, Mark. I expect you’re a dab hand at pleasuring the ladies by now, aren’t you?”
He didn’t rise to the bait. She looked at him across the table while their coffees cooled. “Why is your forehead so light?”
“It’s a skin graft. They had to cut a hole in my skull to reduce the pressure of a bleed on my brain. I died. Twice apparently. They took the graft from my arse.”
“So the wax effigy and the pins did work. I expect your arse has improved your common sense no end,” Edge chuckled and Moira looked down as she composed her thoughts, “Mark, this isn’t going to be instant happy families you know. I’m a different person and it took me all my time to let you anywhere near me last night, I mean this morning. Especially after what happened. Sarah has grown up without you and Francis hates your guts for leaving us and “dying.” He’s at that awkward stage and the last thing he or I need is for you to blunder in and start laying down the returned father law.”
“Mark Edge is dead. I’m Andrew Poulsom now. I’m not going to come back straight away, but I’ll always tell you where I am. That’s if you want me to.”
Moira reached across the table and held his hands, “In our own time, carry on.”
They talked of different things and Moira told him that she had read in the North Devon Gazette that Cynthia Penrith had passed away and the grisly circumstances of her death. Edge’s face was grim, “Did the paper mention if there was a dead cat in the property? She was looking after Monty.”
“No. Oh poor Monty. No, nothing about a cat and that’s the sort of thing they would dwell upon.”
Edge looked upset then thought out loud, “Under the reciprocal arrangement we drew up with the solicitor, now that Ms Penrith is dead, both our old cottage and hers belong to you. She had no relatives and she was living off the proceeds of letting our old cottage. Plus there’s the money I left you that came in eight years after I died.” Have you been spending it wisely?”
“I haven’t touched it. I thought it was dirty money. Did you kill that human rights lawyer, Mark?”
“No. Henry did it for me, because at first I was in an HDU in a Portuguese hospital and then could barely walk. I really wanted to though. Henry added a nice touch, he got away. I would have stayed and played with the plod.”
“Why the bloody hell couldn’t I have married someone, nice and uncomplicated.”
“Because you were a spoiled, little brat and must have been something bad in a previous life. Come on. Let’s get our old home back. You’ll need to go in and speak to the solicitor and get the keys. Don’t take any nonsense from them. Both of those properties are now legally yours.”
* * *
The trees were more overgrown and the hedge line he had worked on was now a tall bocage, overhanging the lane. The state of their empty cottage was dismal. It looked dilapidated and uncared for. The garden was overgrown and Edge noticed tiles missing from the roof and weeds growing in the gutters. Inside it smelled of damp and neglect and they were glad to be back outside in the cold, late autumnal air.
“Bloody hell,” Moira said, her voice heavy with despondency.
“It looks worse than it is. We’ll get the fires up and running to dry out the inside, fix the paint outside and inside and repair the roof. Don’t be downhearted, love. The garden can be your project once I’ve cut back the undergrowth. Cynthia’s cottage is in a better state and with a little work, we can either sell it or let it out.”
“It smelled funny.”
“I’m afraid that was death. We’ll need to air it, obviously.”
Moira sighed, “So what’s the plan, Stan?”
“I’ll move in here and start work. You can move back in with the kids in your own time. And no, I’m not expecting a Railway Children ending. Just ask them to try to understand, which won’t be easy as I don’t understand myself sometimes.”
They were silent for a while, Moira supporting Edge who was still using a stick. He hadn’t bothered to tell her that it was a swordstick. In that close relationship they had refined over the years together and apart, they seemed to have developed identical thought processes and both said the same thing at the same time.
“I wonder what happened to Monty.” Moira started to cry and Edge felt the back of his throat closing.
“He probably died years ago, he was getting on,” Edge said, but it made neither of them feel any better.
They turned round, startled at the familiar cry. An elderly tabby cat pushed through the undergrowth under the hedge. It was very thin, bedraggled and limped towards them, meowing a baby cry and yowling indignantly. A jagged, white scar ran from its right eye down to the cat’s nose and it had a long-healed tear in its ear.
“Monty? Could it be you?”
Edge picked the cat up and wrapped it in his coat, so only the little head showed. Moira was rubbing him gently between his ears. They had all come home and they were all crying, apart from Edge who had something in his eye. They went back inside the cottage then Edge found some wood and lit the wood burner. He knew in his heart that they were going to be all right, provided they were left alone.
“I’ll go and get some kitten food,” Edge said, “It won’t be the first time…”
WAR CRIMES FOR THE POLITICAL ELITE soon to be available from Troubadour.
© Blown Periphery 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file