Weare Giffard North Devon, Langley Virginia, Bogota and St Juan de Pasto Main Operating Base
This is Dedicated to those we leave behind.
“Moira Edge. Moira Edge. Mrs Moira Edge,” she said it out loud, over and over, but it just didn’t sound right.
“I’m too young to be married and married with children. The eldest one will start proper school in the autumn. And I have a baby. And I’m still a bloody child myself, well at least I am up here,” she tapped herself on the head.
She could smell the lasagne cooking in the oven, something nice for when Mark gets back. I’ll let it cool and cut it into portions. I can’t stand sheet pasta, all slimy, but Mark likes lasagne. Do they eat lasagne in Colombia? I hope he hasn’t been eating the stuff over there and it’s put him off.
She looked at the clock. Still plenty of time before I have to go and collect Sarah and baby Francis is still asleep. Sometimes it’s tempting to leave him in bed while I go and collect Sarah, but Torrington is too far. What if the house burned down, or we got burgled while I was away…?
But I’m not a child, am I? I’m a married woman with responsibilities. Mark Edge chased the girl in me away and saddled me with two little kids in a cottage on the river. I was a stupid, spoiled little girl and he took the girl away and made me face my responsibilities. He was quite a bit older than me, almost a father figure with nice, added extras, but he has taught me things that a childhood with my parents and Barnstaple Grammar School could never teach me.
We were married for four years before the first baby. I thought I was never going to get pregnant, but he seemed quite relaxed by the whole thing and would smile enigmatically at me after we made love, we used to make love a lot and it was, still is marvellous.
He would say, “Don’t fret. You’ll get pregnant when you’re ready. Your body is ready, but your mind, well not yet.”
“Are you saying I’m bloody stupid, Mark Edge!” and he would laugh at me, nibble a nipple and the whole damned thing would start again.
But in those childless years he had gently expanded her mind and the way of seeing different situations and people. Never take anything at face value. Always ask who, when, what and why. Don’t believe what you see on the BBC or any mainstream news. They are paid by someone to report, what they want them to report.
“What like Tony Blair?”
Mark’s face would harden and she would see a rare outburst of his anger.
“Blair, that fucking piece of shit! I’ve killed good, brave people to keep that frightful, evil, war criminal in power!”
Then his face would soften as his humanity returned, “Sorry, Moira,” he would say humbly and give a little, shy smile.
But he would never get angry like that at her parents, although she knew he had good reason to. They had never approved of him, “Just another unthinking, hired killer,” her father would say, “You’ve only got to look at his face. The face of a criminal. I don’t know how you can bare him to touch you, let alone impregnate you. You mark my words, Moira. He likes the drink too much. He’ll end up hitting you, or worse, one of your children.”
After he had left to fly to Colombia, her parents had come round unannounced, looking disdainfully at their little cottage. Admittedly they had caught her on a bad day and it was a little untidy. And she hadn’t bothered dressing up and was wearing her “Mummy clothes.” Her parents had probably spotted the regurgitated milk on her shoulder from the morning feed, always the worst and the longest.
The things they had said to her were so cruel, her father implying he was doing something illegal with drugs. He knew he was in the SAS and the unit went to unconventional places, but he still had to say something as nasty as that. His mother implying, he was playing around with other women, in a country notorious for its floozies and whores, according to her mother. Then she had offered to tidy up, as you, meaning Moira couldn’t seem to find the time. She had been glad when they had left.
Moira, one day you’re going to have to tell your parents to fuck off.
And she knew he was right, but she was still a Daddy’s girl and a spoiled, little brat, but the ties that bind were loosening.
She looked at the only photograph of her husband she had on display in the house. The picture was of three men sitting in the open door of an aircraft. They were wearing parachute equipment and all were grinning. Henry Morrison was on the left, Mark in the centre with an outrageously handsome man on the rights, he had told her it was Guy Jarvis. They all looked happy, fit and at ease with life. This was the other part of his life, not for girls. She loved this picture of Mark with his tousled hair, like a mischievous little boy, staring out at her, as though he was saying, “Just you wait until I get home!”
She had gone to a mother and toddlers’ group after Sarah had been born, but it was a bunch a vacuous and bitchy women trying to outscore each other.
“What was it you said your husband did. Moira?”
“Oh, Mark? He kills people. He’s really rather good at it. He won the district prize for killing the most people in the run-up to Christmas…”
It’s not as though she hadn’t known what he was right from the start. She had just chosen to blank it from her mind. She knew he was brave and went to fight in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but she found it impossible to reconcile this with a loving husband and father. So, she didn’t try. Mark worked away from home, that was it.
Her friend Angela had an on/off relationship with Henry Morrison from the photograph and Mark’s best man at the wedding. She would chide Moira for her silliness.
“You can’t change what he is by pretending these things don’t happen. You might not approve, but it’s because of men like Mark and Henry, we can sleep in our beds safely. You could have a better and more fulfilled life together if you left your bloody parents and moved away. You’re an only child and they swamp you; they think it’s love but it’s really just control and coercion.”
Moira stared at the photograph. She liked it so much because there were no guns. They were happy, before or after a jump? She had no idea.
Moira closed her eyes as the first tears came and she sobbed.
“Please come home, Mark. Come home to me…”
The cat stared at her from the open back door. He could feel her grief and silently padded across the flags and nuzzled her leg.
“Hello, Monty,” she scooped the cat up and it kneaded her chest, “I want him home, Monty.”
“Miaow,” the cat agreed solemnly.
To: Chief of Staff Directorate of Operations.
From: Directorate of Analysis US Embassy Colombia
Information received from our cousins that the subject has been angered by our ongoing operations. Five aircraft plus plant have been destroyed at southern jungle airstrip. In addition, a consignment of narcotics was destroyed.
The reconnaissance flights by the Orions have proved to be most fruitful and good FLIR imagery has pinpointed camouflaged growing areas. The Colombian Air Force will begin defoliating flights on the 30th June.
The cousins have provided a most interesting piece of intelligence. Jaguarundi has declared a council to be held at his location, where an appropriate response to our ongoing operations will be discussed. The aggressive insertion of forces at the appropriate time will, I believe, reap significant benefits. I will provide time and location of the meeting, subject to information from the cousins.
In addition, I am able to discuss this further should you require clarification.
Officer C Rivera
The Chief of Staff re-read the e-mail on her secret terminal. As always, she was looking for hidden nuances, the messages between the messages, but this one seemed very direct and to the point. The Chief of Staff liked the direct approach. She picked up her telephone and rang the Assistant Chief of Staff.
“Good morning, Abe. Have you seen the e-mail from Colombia?”
“Yes, I have, Chief.”
“I’d like to discuss it with you, if you’re not too busy.”
“I’ll be along in five minutes.”
She made a tea for her and a coffee for Abe and true to his word, he knocked and entered five minutes later.
“Abe. Sit down.”
He did and waited. He knew this Chief of Staff wasn’t one for small talk and liked to come to the point. He was getting to know her ways after the previous Chief, who was a big golfing man. This Chief shunned all the trappings of the locker room and went for her daily swim, whenever her work schedule permitted, a solitary and slightly aloof figure, but she was no fool.
“Abe, I want you to let me know what the set-up in Colombia and tell me about Officer Rivera.”
The Assistant Chief sipped the coffee and looked at the situational map on the Chief’s wall. The area in the Middle East was heavily populated with map pins, each one denoting a station.
“The Colombia station used to occupy a building about a quarter-of-a-mile from the embassy, in Bogota’s commercial centre. There was a large leak and the building required major refurbishment, so it was decided to move the station into the embassy, that had spare capacity. It’s not ideal.
“As an organisation and the political administration, both have taken their eyes off the ball as far as the southern Americas go. We, and this is a personal observation, Chief, have spent far too much time and effort concentrating on the Middle East and the Asian Sub-continent, at the expense of our reputation. The cocaine continues to pour into the States, despite the best efforts of the DEA and our too few military assets in Colombia. You will be aware of the recent meeting at the DEA in Arlington?”
“Yes, Abe. I read the verbatim transcript. I understand we had a lucky break in Colombia?”
“The Colombian Department of Security arrested a female member of FARC, who was visiting relatives in Bogota. During her interrogation the woman revealed the locations of several jungle camps, airstrips, cultivation sites of the coca and shipment routes. This information has been proved to be reliable, in terms of the jungle airstrip and allowed a strike force to put them out of action.”
“And what has happened to her?”
“Unfortunately, she died during the interrogation.”
“How convenient,” the Chief of Staff observed cynically.
The Assistant Chief said nothing because he too found this to be implausible and was unhappy the Agency was involved with such matters.
“You know my views on the use of torture to obtain information. Most of the time the victim tells you what you want to hear. If you read into it, that poor woman provided no high value intelligence.”
“The airfield and the aircraft, Chief?”
The cartels have more air assets than a small airline, and can well afford the loss of five ancient aircraft. Two trucks do not a major shipment make. What about Officer Rivera?”
“She is a competent staffer and has held the intelligence department together during a difficult time. She is young and quite inexperienced, pretty average fitness reports with nothing outstanding until recently.
“We as an organisation have failed in our support to her and she has had to maintain the department during the long-term sickness of her boss, Ryan Campbell. While I can understand the rationale of not replacing Campbell during his illness, the gapping of the junior post within the department was in my opinion, inexcusable. She showed commendable organisational skills during the mission to find the abducted DEA members and our officer.”
The Chief nodded thoughtfully, “OK, Abe. Which brings us to this e-mail she sent this morning at 06:00 Colombia time and our time. Doesn’t she have a life?”
She recited from the e-mail:
“The cousins have provided a most interesting piece of intelligence. Jaguarundi has declared a council to be held at his location, where an appropriate response to our ongoing operations will be discussed. The aggressive insertion of forces at the appropriate time will, I believe, reap significant benefits. I will provide time and location of the meeting, subject to information from the cousins.
“Who is or are the cousins in this case?”
“The Assistant Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Bogota. The Brits have better relations with the Ecuador government than we do and I believe they are running a couple of agents in that country.”
“Is this Brit in their embassy to be trusted?” asked the Chief.
“As much as you can trust any MI6 officers.”
“And they have eyes on Jaguarundi?” it was a rhetorical question, “Why don’t we get Officer Rivera up here to brief us personally? Can you arrange that please, Abe?”
“I’ll get onto it, Chief.”
Edge could feel something was in the air. The command tent was a hive of activity and he heard from Wilson that Rivera was in long conversations with Major Martinez on the sat phone from Bogota. He felt distracted, knowing his tenure with the Green Berets in Pasto was coming to an end and he would enjoy the summer in England and the river valley of his home.
He would miss the Green Berets and he had become a trusted member of their unit. Since his jungle trek he was respected by them, even the ones who had seemed reticent when he first arrived. But most of all he would miss Clarita Rivera and was determined to spend some quiet time with her in the weeks he had left.
It was a quiet spell for them all, the lull before the storm and Edge approached Lieutenant Turner, to ask him if it was OK to go to the capital for a couple of days, for what would probably be his last briefing with Medwin. Turner told him that nothing much was planned until the direction came from on high and that he might as well.
Edge took the shuttle flight to the capital and back at his hotel he took a long shower and spent a long time on the phone to Moira. He could tell she was getting fed up and wanted him to come home. Edge promised he would be back in a couple of weeks and they made some plans. Then he decided to phone Clarita to see if she was free for dinner. It rang for quite a long time before she answered, and she sounded tired.
“Hello, It’s, Edge. How’s it hanging?
“Ohh, hello, Mark. I certainly didn’t expect to speak to you.”
At least she sounded pleased that he had called, “I’m in Bogota, probably for my last meeting with Medwin tomorrow. I was wondering if you’re free for dinner tonight?”
She chuckled, “Mark, I’d love to have dinner with you, but I’m in the States, in Virginia.”
“Oh, damn! Is it about what I think it is?”
“Yes. I’ve got a meeting with the headmistress tomorrow morning.”
“About the same time as Medwin is reaming my arse?”
She chuckled sexily, “We can compare bruises the next time we’re together.”
They had a long conversation about little and nothing, until she finally said that she’d better be going to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting.
“OK, Clarita. Have a good meeting and we’ll all be waiting like coiled springs for your orders when you get back.
“Oh and, Mark?”
“I love you…”
The line went dead and he stared out of the window at the late afternoon city, the young people hurrying home to do whatever young, successful Colombians did. He wondered if he had imagined the last part of the call, but knew he hadn’t. He was both elated and worried. That evening he had a lonely meal in the grill, lost deep in thought. He didn’t even notice the young, attractive prostitute at the bar who was trying to attract his attention. Back in his room he tossed and turned in the bed until sleep finally caught up with him.
The next day he walked to the British Embassy in a strange, detached mood. He had decided to wear trousers and a shirt rather than his uniform, because he intended to do some shopping after his meeting, presents to take home.
He couldn’t help but notice that Medwin seemed to be in an almost conciliatory mood and didn’t keep him waiting. He even called him Staff Sergeant Edge and invited him to sit in the comfy chair. He even gave Edge a mug of coffee and sat opposite him in the other comfy chair. The little office was quite cramped in a homely way.
“Well Staff Edge, I hope you’ve found your time spent with the Americans to be productive, and you’ve achieved what your unit wanted you to do.”
“Yes, I have sir. On a personal level I’ve learned a great deal about jungle warfare and survival, information I can pass on to the training squadron back at the Lines.”
Medwin smiled, “And I’ve heard that you personally have learned a great deal about survival after your ordeal in the jungle?”
“I was very lucky, sir.”
Medwin brushed an imaginary fleck of dust off his trousers and stared directly at Edge, “Do you know that Major Martinez wrote up a citation and was in communication with Washington with regard to awarding you the American’s Defence Meritorious Service Medal?”
“No, sir, I didn’t.”
“Unfortunately, the award was vetoed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the recommendation of the Director of Special Forces. It was felt that an American award would draw too much attention to you and the roles played by your chaps all over the world.”
“Particularly as I had clouted an American in Afghanistan,” Edge said, knowing that Medwin knew why he was there.
“Nevertheless, the Americans are quite insistent and will likely draw up a citation in appreciation of your efforts with them, rather than the medal. I doubt if either the Director SF or the FCO could object. You’ll be going home soon, after the big push, so to speak.”
Edge was looking around the office at the framed fishing flies that Medwin had obviously lovingly tied, because he liked a spot of fishing in more ways than one, “I think there is something in the planning stage, but you know how these things work, sir. I won’t be involved until planning is mature and I’ll only be told enough so I can understand my objectives and brief my section accordingly.”
But Medwin obviously knew there was something going to happen and that the Green Berets would be involved. Edge thought he’d be better off asking Rivera. It was still there, that nagging lack of trust, but she had said she loved him, hadn’t she? Was it just another ploy? Stop it! That way lies madness.
Medwin stood up and the conversation had obviously come to an end, “Well Staff Sergeant Edge. I won’t lie to you. You are quite a difficult man to warm to, but you have obviously acquitted yourself well with our American allies, so all credit to you. I hope you have a good trip home after the operation, whatever it is.”
Edge stood up and they shook hands, “Goodbye, sir. This is a beautiful but dangerous part of the world. I’ll always remember it.”
He collected his Glock from the reception and was back out on the dusty streets. He looked at a tourist information map for information to the shopping district and began to walk, just another anonymous man at large in a strange city. Even for the cat who walked on his own, the loneliness was crushing.
© Blown Periphery 2022