Edge was late for his weekly meeting with Charles Medwin. It was around ten days instead of the usual seven, but he had been busy, as they all had. Edge was determined not to justify the American course of action to this deskbound member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, not to mention Vauxhall Cross.
And he had been asked to sit down. Medwin asked him direct questions regarding the freeing of the DEA hostages. Edge was happy to answer the questions in the most part, but he omitted any reference to specific, operational details.
“The Americans are full on regarding the rescue of those DEA people from the FARC. Rightly so, it was a daring and high-risk undertaking. Did you have any part in it, Edge?”
“I went in with them, sir. There is no way I could have refused, now that I’m assimilated.”
“I see. Did you pick up any useful information, working with the Green Berets?”
“Nothing specific, sir. It merely proved that good, old-fashioned techniques are still valid, whatever the environment and who is involved.”
“And have you been able to create a network with these Green Berets?”
“I am just an NCO, sir. The only networking I’ve done is with the troops on the ground.”
“I see. What is the Americans’ likely direction travel, now all the ho-ha has died down?”
Edge looked at Medwin and decided that despite his affability, he was not to be trusted.
“I expect they’ll go back to attempting to interdict the narcotics supply routes. To cause as much disruption to the Cartels and FARC as possible.”
“I see,” Medwin was steepling his fingers again, a trait that Edge found to be quite irritating, “So they are going back to their primary objective, overriding any CIA directives.”
“I wouldn’t say that, sir. The rescue of the DEA personnel was a CIA directive. One of their agents in theatre, I think her name is Rivera, visits the base on a regular basis and she spent a great deal of time in the command tent. The rescue of the DEA people was concocted as a joint Green Beret/CIA operation.”
Edge decided not to mention anything to do with the photographs from the U2, or the fact a CIA reconnaissance aircraft was doing overflights of Colombia.
“But you could say that you have fitted in well with the Americans and are trusted by them?”
“I suppose so, sir. However, there is one thing that I’m not happy about.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
“That enquiry, sir. What the hell was it about?”
Medwin looked beyond Edge to one of the photographs of the rivers, behind him.
“The British oil company and pipeline surveyors wanted to find out why eight of their security team were murdered by the Colombian Army, and why you were with them.”
“They were not murdered. They were properly engaged by Colombian forces, when they came under attack. As that lawyer in the “enquiry” said: You obviously know your legal obligations with regard to the laws of armed conflict. He was right, so let’s not hear any nonsense about those security contractors being murdered.
“There is one more thing. How did the members of that enquiry find out I had an altercation with a SEAL in Afghanistan? They were very specific. Did you tell them?”
Medwin looked shocked, “I most certainly did not. Try looking a bit closer to our American cousins. Does Ms Rivera know?”
“I expect so, sir. She is a CIA spook.”
“Well, there you go.”
Edge recognised the classic ploy of dividing and ruling. Sow the seeds of doubt and watch everybody tear each other apart, then get on with whatever it is you’re up to. Bastard!
“Will there be anything else?”
“Not from me,” Edge stood up to leave.
“You are a difficult man to warm to. You really don’t want to make me your enemy.”
Edge grinned like a wolf. “And why would I want to do that, sir?”
He was glad to get outside and the fresh air. His dealings with Medwin left a sour taste in his mouth. He crossed the busy road and headed for a park he has seen when Rivera took him… How long ago was that? He was losing track of the days. His life was just hotel to aeroplane south, to cot bed, to the jungle. Edge decided that he hated the jungle, it’s seeping wetness, its sounds and smells, its sudden death and the sounds of rounds ripping through foliage
In the park, he sat down on a bench in the sun. He stretched out like Monty did, allowing the warmth to seep into his bones. Young couples ambled past him, lost in their adoration for each other, not paying the British soldier in his camouflaged trousers and smock the slightest attention. Edge realised he needed to talk with someone and he pulled out his phone and looked at his watch. Five hours ahead, which would mean she had picked Sarah up from infant’s school and was probably serving up their tea. He smoked a cigarette slowly and then pressed the number in the call log.
She answered with a cautious “Hello?”
“Hello, Moira, it’s me.”
“Mark? Where are you?”
“Have you been in the jungle yet?”
“A few times,” he admitted.
“Good heavens no! Perish the thought. I’ve been with David Attenborough, filming the lesser spotted shytehawks and their mating rituals.”
The pause was even longer this time, “There’s no need to treat me like an idiot, Mark.”
“I’m sorry, love. Yes, I’ve been fighting. It’s an occupational hazard in my line of business.”
“Have you made any friends?”
How could he tell her that they weren’t “friends” but comrades? Brothers in arms, “Yes, they are very friendly, most of them. Their food is pretty bloody awful, which is why I like coming to Bogotá most weeks. I can get a decent dinner and stay in a comfy bed for a couple of nights.”
“Of course, alone!”
But he didn’t tell her about the Puerto Rican woman and her half-hearted pass at him, or was that memory distorted by the amount of wine he’d drunk? He certainly had a thick head the following morning and he remembered one of the troopers say to him: “Did Clarita get you drunk to seduce you. She does like you, Edge. In fact, I reckon she likes you a lot.”
He closed his eyes and tried to dampen down that memory.
“Moira, there’s very little chance of hanky-panky out here.”
“Good. You still set my heart racing, in fact I think you’re getting better looking as you get older, but I am biased. And my eyes are going.”
“Thank you for that vote of confidence. How are the kids?”
“Sarah just loves going to school, I drop her off and she’s gone. She loves bringing her pictures home to show me. She did one of you and Monty in the garden. Monty was a bit too big and looked more like a Griffon. And you were a bit small, but it shows she is thinking about you.”
“And what about Francis?”
“He’s still a bloody nightmare to feed. Half the time I think he just likes playing with them.”
“Don’t we all.”
“When are you coming home, Mark? I need a proper playing with.”
“Four or six weeks, if you can hold out for so long.”
“There’s always the postman.”
Or Daz, Edge thought nastily.
“I’d better shoot off and do some shopping. You had better watch out for that special delivery.”
“Mark, I miss you. We all do.”
“Won’t be long now. Love to all of you. Bye, Moira, bye.”
Edge sat back on the bench and watched a couple seemingly randomly walking into the park from different directions. The man looked around him, then took the woman’s hand. They walked together to an ice cream kiosk and bought two cornets. They just looked so suspicious that Edge surmised that they were clandestine lovers. A chance meeting from work?
Then he thought about Charles Medwin and Clarita Rivera. He shook his head at the implausibility of his thoughts and decided to take the black Ford GT out on the open roads for a spin to clear his head. He headed back to the hotel and got changed into civvies. Then he headed down to the parking lot, got in and started the Ford GT. Edge closed his eyes and listened to the burble of the exhaust, then keyed his current location into the satnav. He headed out into the traffic and for no particular reason, headed north. The signs were above him for the Route 50 and Medellin was on the signpost in 450 km but he had no intention of going so far.
It was cold, but he enjoyed the drive enormously. The Ford was a handful with a heavy back end, but the Route 50 was a double laned highway with little in the way of challenging bends. As he drove, he pondered on that morning’s meeting but it was the meeting in the park of the couple that had the most impact on him. He had to be sure, one way or another and he turned off at Villeta to head back to Bogotá.
At a large service area with shops, Edge filled the car with petrol and parked in front of the shops. He looked in the windows of a clothes shop and on a whim, he went in and decided what to buy. He settled for a couple of t-shirts, skinny jeans which he hated, training shoes designed for street chic rather than running and a baggy jacket. He topped off the ensemble with a silk scarf and a Panama hat.
I’ll look like Quentin bloody Crisp in this lot, Edge thought as he paid for the clothes, which were expensive. He grabbed a hot panini at another vendor and a can of carbonated fruit juice. In the car he methodically munched on the snack, not really tasting anything, the thoughts whirling round his head.
Don’t do this, Edge.
I have to be sure.
And if you find out what you suspect, what are you going to do about it.
Probably nothing, but the trust will have gone.
And that’s what you want?
No, it isn’t. Oh God, this is stupid,
But he knew he was going to do it anyway. With a heavy heart, he headed back to Bogotá and his hotel to get changed. By the time he reached her flats, it was 16:00 and Edge settled down to wait. It was incredibly boring, but Edge had done this kind of thing several times in the past, in Londonderry, Belfast and Armagh, including trips across the border into the Republic.
It was nearly dark by the time she walked from the embassy and she went inside the flats. Edge waited until he saw the lights in her apartment go on and the minutes began to tick away. At 19:00 he saw the lights on the seventh floor go out and stretched his muscles. A taxi pulled up and tooted its horn and he watched Clarita leave the flats and get in the back. It pulled away and Edge followed some two hundred yards behind the taxi, allowing cars to get between them, as long as he was able to keep the taxi in sight.
The taxi headed southeast into the dense grid of buildings of the Parque Bavaria district and stopped outside a discreetly lit club, the Billares Londres. She paid the fare and went into the club as Edge cruised past. He parked up illegally, surmising that there would be no traffic police around after 18:00. He draped his scarf around his neck and lower face and topped off the ensemble with the Panama hat and a pair of dark glasses. He had no problem getting into the club, the doormen took one look at him and waved him through, as though homosexuality was contagious. It was just as well. Edge would have had difficulty in explaining away the Glock in the small of his back.
The Club Billares Londres’ is described in the World Travel Guide as a slightly bizarre venue, where the main room features an enormous marble bar with low lighting, giving the venue a sexy atmosphere. Edge went into the main bar, following Clarita and ordered a gin martini at the bar, constantly watching her. She looked around and saw him in the corner and went across to the booth. A man stood up to greet her with a kiss on the cheek. Edge couldn’t see who it was until she moved to sit next to him. He felt a boiling anger because it was Charles Medwin.
The sense of betrayal was all-consuming. She had lied to him on a number of occasions and now he knew how the enquiry had found out about his past indiscretion in Afghanistan. She had even offered to share her bed with him, which was just another sickening ploy. Edge stirred his drink with the olive on the cocktail stick, full of loathing. Medwin was nestled up close to her, but he thought she had a slightly stiff demeanour. Edge looked down into his glass, lost in thought and misery. When he looked up, two young men with exceedingly tight T-shirts were watching him. One of them waved his fingers at Edge in a coquettish manner and looked at him through fluttering false eyelashes. Oh, bloody great, Edge thought. The World Travel Guide didn’t mention that the Club Billares Londres was a gay bar, but it was well known amongst the locals.
He tipped his hat to the couple and looked at his watch to signal that he was waiting for someone. The other gay man with a Freddie Mercury moustache pouted and turned to his companion. They had a long conversation about timewasters. Edge marvelled at their physiques and concluded that they must spend hours in a gym to look that good.
He shifted his attention back to the couple in the booth. Medwin was talking to Clarita, but she wasn’t looking at him. She was watching the people in the bar. She scanned the large room, her gaze sweeping over Edge without pausing. He wondered if he should get any closer to actually hear what Medwin was saying to her, but decided that would be too suspicious. After an hour and two drinks, she stood up. Medwin kissed her hand and she strolled out, passing within four feet of Edge without recognising him. He looked at the two gay men and shrugged, following her outside.
She was waiting for a taxi and he just made it to his car before one picked her up. He followed again and it seemed to be heading back to her apartment building. It was and she paid the driver and went inside. He waited for an hour and nobody else came. Edge concluded that perhaps he had been following the wrong person and should have gone after Medwin. Well, there was always the next time, when he had cooled down enough not to use physical violence on him.
Edge drove back to the hotel, ordered a bottle of wine in his room. He drank it in despondent loneliness and then went to bed. Sleep was difficult. The next morning, he had a good breakfast, changed and asked for a taxi to take him to the airport. The shuttle was a Bolivian Air Force Cessna 310 with a single pilot and some medical items for the Green Beret detachment. As the Cessna banked to head south, he looked down at the city.
You fucking lying, duplicitous little bitch, Edge thought bitterly.
Considering he knew how Medwin operated, he had fallen for the ploy rather too easily, as he would find out to his cost. He would catch a cold. Clarita Rivera would suffer pneumonia.
© Blown Periphery 2021