Bogota, the Andes and Venezuela
Edge knew that he had to act fast and he started a methodical search of the bodies. They were all clean and all he found was a mobile phone on the body of the man who had killed Rivera. He wiped the blood off the screen and found there was one number in the call log. He composed himself and rang it. It rang for quite a while before a man answered it.
Edge changed his voice until it was a little higher than normal and spoke in Spanish.
“Patron? He has killed all of us apart from me.”
“Who are you? Where is Lopez?”
Edge sobbed, “Gone, killed by the bastard Englishman.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Ruiz. I am the last one of us alive.”
“Is she dead?”
“Yes, the man too, but he has killed us all. He was a devil…”
“But the woman is dead?”
“Yes, and the man too. You said it would be easy to ambush them outside the hotel, but they fought back.”
“I never said it would be easy. You had better get out of there before the police come. I will arrange payment in the usual way.”
“I want more for this job,” Edge said to add verisimilitude.
“Don’t be greedy, my friend. You don’t know who you’re dealing with!”
Yes, I bloody well do! “I want double the money and I want cash. You will leave it…”
“I will give you a half-cut bonus. Take it or leave it!”
“There is a rubbish bin outside the Gold Museum. The money will be in a black, plastic wrapping, inside the bin. It will be there after midday. Do not contact this phone again.”
The man on the other end of the call hung up. Edge knew Medwin would destroy the phone and the police would be waiting if he tried to collect the cash. It didn’t matter, because now he knew who had ordered their killing. He stood up and walked over to Rivera’s body. He knelt beside her and looked at her face. She was serene and gentle in death. He searched her, feeling like he was violating her and found the flash drive in the side pocket of her jeans. He pocketed it, then retrieved her Sig. Overcome with grief, he started to recite the prayer.
“All Powerful God,
We honour today those men and women—
Our sons and daughters,
Husbands and wives,
Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers—
Who have laid down their life for their country.
Whether weary or emboldened, quiet or defiant,
Vulnerable or ready when You called them home,
Their sacrifice is too humbling for words
except these uttered in prayer.
Loving Lord, bless them forever in Your eternal peace…
Cherish their spirit, honour their commitment,
send them our love,
and will never forget the service that they gave.”
“Please God. Don’t judge her harshly.”
He stood up and put his rifle and pistol in the valise, went to the shattered car and recovered her laptop. Edge slung his daysack and carried the valise and laptop. Without a backward glance he crossed the cornfields, towards the bright lights of a petrol station. From there he would get a cab and go back into the capital. He would become the Archangel of Retribution, Medwin’s Nemesis.
Edge had the cab drop him off at a different car hire firm and he rented a Chevrolet, then drove to another budget hotel, but in the capital. He purchased three flash drives and, in his room, fired up Rivera’s laptop. He copied the folder onto each one of the flash drives, adding an audio file, outlining what he knew of events. And then he did a stupid thing. One that would haunt him. He went and looked at the photographs in the folder on her laptop. There were quite a few personal ones. Some were of her with and older, handsome may whom he guessed was Ryan Campbell. There were lots of pictures of them together, obviously enjoying each-other’s company, and then the one that almost made him howl out loud with anguish.
Clarita was sitting on a bed, he had no idea where it was, probably Ryan’s place. She was nude and the photo was taken side on. You could see the outline of her breasts in the dim light as she looked round and stared shyly into the camera, with a knowing smile. It was a beautifully composed photograph of post-coital desirability. He felt like a voyeur and quickly came out of the folder and put his head in his hands. He felt his loss keenly, but at least they were together now.
Edge went to the central post office. He sent the three drives, by special delivery to an address in Virginia and two to London. The fourth he sent to an address in Lincoln with an audio file attached, almost like his last will and testament. Then he went to the railway station and hired a large, left-luggage locker, one large enough to take golf clubs for the rifle and his Glock, body armour and the laptop. Rivera’s Sig was still in his holster.
Back in his hotel, Edge rang to book more air tickets, for one way this time, with an open-ended departure date. He tried to think how they had known they were at that hotel. He was sure they hadn’t been followed, so how did they know. He contemplated phoning Moira and let her know he would be home within the week and picked up his mobile phone…
Then he knew. It had been obviously easy and he cursed himself. They had triangulated the signal from her mobile phone. Medwin had called her on it and he was pretty sure that she had phoned him. It would be easy for someone in MI6 to ask the state police to track the phone’s signal. Edge swore because he had missed something so obvious and switched his phone off. He couldn’t take out the battery, but he could buy some lead flashing at a DIY store.
That afternoon Edge began to stalk his prey. It wasn’t easy because he didn’t know what car Medwin drove and didn’t have a clue where he lived. It was impossible to wait outside the embassy because of the no-parking areas and the security cameras and he tried driving round the block and hope that he would spot him on a pass. It was a frustrating time, but Edge had a clear mission and sense of purpose. He was like a cat waiting for a mouse to re-appear from behind plant pots. Some cat, some mouse.
Clearly, he was wasting his time with this strategy, so Edge changed tack. For three nights he waited outside, Harry Sasson’s, but had no success. On the fourth night he saw a taxi draw up to the restaurant and a couple got out. He had no idea who the woman was, but he instantly recognised Medwin in a Kashmir coat. Edge waited for them to go in and get seated, in the meantime he checked the Sig was loaded and removed the slide lock.
He got out of the car and walked towards the brightly-lit restaurant. He was wearing a short coat with the collar up, a hoodie and a pair of clear-glass spectacles. For once his hair was brushed and slicked back with gel and he had designer stubble. Inside the restaurant, Edge ordered a drink at the bar and had to move position in order to see them.
Medwin was sitting with a young, attractive Colombian woman, probably someone he had met at the embassy. Edge sipped his drinks and waited for his chance. The maître d’hôtel brought their drinks and Edge sipped his overpriced beer, watching covertly. Their meals came and he waited until the maître d’hôtel was out of the dining area and speaking on the telephone. Edge stood up and walked calmly across to their table, pulled out a chair and sat down at the side of the table on Medwin’s left side. He was about to protest at this intrusion, when Edge rammed the muzzle of the Sig into his side.
“Good evening, Charles. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your attractive companion?”
Medwin dropped his fork on his plate and the woman stared at the two of them with alarm and puzzlement, “Charles?”
“Why don’t you tell the lady that we’re old friends? Oh, and another mutual friend sends her regards, or at least would have done if she hadn’t unfortunately been murdered… By you.”
“I thought you were…”
“Dead? Sorry to disappoint you, Charles, but I’m still very much fighting fit. You, however, look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
The maître d’hôtel hovered near to the table to see if everything was all right.
“Get rid of him, Charles. We have business to discuss. I’m terribly sorry for spoiling your evening, Ma’am, but Charles and I will be busy.”
“Is everything all right, sir?”
“Fine thank you,” Medwin said to the maître d, very aware of the Sig pressed into his side below the ribcage, “I’m terribly sorry, Alina, but this gentleman is very persistent. I will reimburse you for the cab fare.”
Rather huffily she stood up and threw her napkin on the table, then went for her coat.
“Nice, Charles, but I would have thought out of your league.”
“What do you want, Edge?”
“I want to know why you had Clarita Rivera murdered. She was no real threat to you.”
“On the contrary, because she was threatening me that she would report everything to her CIA bosses. I have spent a lot of time and effort cultivating friendship and a working partnership with Camilo Hernández. I wasn’t prepared to let a stupid and gullible woman like her threaten all that I have achieved.”
“You were collateral and there was an element of personal satisfaction in ensuring you were killed as well.”
Edge looked thoughtful, as though he was mulling something over in his mind.
Medwin smiled provocatively, “You know you can’t touch me, don’t you? I have diplomatic immunity and there would be a terrible reaction if you killed me.”
“You forget one thing, Edge is dead. He was identified by documents in the gentleman’s possession, like personal letters and an Army ID card, belonging to a Staff Sergeant Edge. He didn’t have much in the way of a head left for visible identification, so Edge is incapable of killing you, isn’t he?”
Medwin seemed to slump in defeat. He finished his wine slowly, savouring it.
“I don’t want to kill you here,” Edge told him, “It would be unfair on the other diners to see your guts spread across the table. We’re going to walk to my car. It’s not far and then we’ll go for a nice, long drive.
“Why are you doing this, Edge. I’m an extremely wealthy man and I could set you up for life.”
Because I loved Clarita Rivera. Not in your sordid way, but because she was kind, gentle and caring. Your money is just filth and feeds the desperate and the criminals in the States and Europe.”
“Oh please. I think I’m going to be sick.”
“For that comment, I’m going to kneecap you first. You will stand up and walk with me to the door. If you attempt any sudden movements, I will shoot you in the spine. If you survive, you’ll end up in a wheelchair. I don’t care anymore because I don’t exist.”
Medwin stood up and Edge pushed him towards the door with the pistol. As they walked to the door the maître d opened the door with a worried expression. He had seen Edge’s face.
“Are you sure everything is all right Mr Medwin?”
“Fine thanks,” Edge said breezily, “He’s selling me a car.”
And then they were outside, “Turn right. Up ahead is a Chevrolet. Stop at it, arms out to your side.”
Edge opened the boot, “Get in it.”
“If you think that I’m going in that filthy boot, you’ve got another…”
Edge hit him in the face with the butt of the Sig. Blood immediately started to pour from his nose and mouth. Medwin got in, dabbing his face with a sleeve.
“More satisfying than hitting a woman, eh Charles? Face down, you bastard!”
After he had shuffled onto his belly, Edge cable tied his arms behind his back and then his ankles, with another cable tie linking them. He slammed the boot shut on Medwin, got in and started to drive north-east out of the city. As he drove, he listened to the Beach Boys Greatest Hits CD played very loudly. He hoped Medwin hated the Beach Boys, because then it was ABBA’s Visitors, followed by the Lightening Seeds, Madness and then ELO.
The drive took ten hours and he was high in the Andes, on a narrow road bounded by rocks and precipitous drops. It was daylight. He was at high altitude and the car indicated an outside temperature of minus ten degrees. He pulled into a passing point and stopped the car, turning off the engine and got out to open the boot.
Edge cut the cable ties, “Get out!”
“I can’t move.”
“You’d better, before I get really cross with you.”
Medwin clambered out in obvious agony as his circulation returned.
“Get away from the car and stand over there.”
He stood swaying, dried blood on his face and shirt. Edge’s blow had also shattered a central incisor that had sheared off at gum level. He regarded Medwin with a look of contempt.
“How long before they miss you at the embassy? I reckon about forty-eight hours.”
Edge lit a cigarette and continued to watch Medwin like a disgusting but interesting lifeform on a lab slide.
“Do you remember telling me, that I had a high opinion of myself?” Edge asked, “Well I don’t. I have a low opinion of you. Now get undressed.”
“For God’s sake, it’s freezing.”
“Come on, don’t be shy. Everything off!”
Medwin stood shivering, his arms folded across his chest, “Put your clothes and shoes in the car boot. Oh dear, that looks rather disappointing. You wouldn’t be able to please the girls in the embassy with that thing.”
“Good. Now if you start to walk that way, Arauqueta is about eight miles away. You may be able to do it, but I’d start fairly soon if I were you. Walking keeps you warm. Don’t ever come back to Britain, because if you do, I will kill you. Slowly.”
“For God’s sake, Edge. You’re giving me no chance.”
“I’m giving you a better chance than you gave Clarita Rivera. Now move you bastard!”
Edge fired a shot at his feet and Medwin moaned and started to walk, slowly and painfully in his bare feet. He watched him disappear round the corner and flipped the cigarette butt away. He got back into the car and followed the mountain road until it joined the R55. It was two hours to the Venezuelan border and he crossed the Rio Araeca at El Amparo, onto a toll road. Back then British passport holders didn’t need a visa, just a fifty US Dollar bribe for the border guards.
He was driving on nervous energy and pulled in at a truck stop near La Pedrera to re-fill with fuel, dump the clothes in a bin and snatch four hours sleep. On waking he went to the shops and purchased a sandwich and bottled water, eating them in the car before setting off again. He was now in a different time zone and changed his watch accordingly.
For most of the journey his mind was blank, overwhelmed with events and grief. He asked God why such awful events happened to him and whether this was his purgatory. He tried desperately not to think about Rivera’s nude body, snuggling into him in that bed, her breasts warm against his side, her intimate hair brushing his thigh. In a few hours after that she would be cold and dead, a beautiful young woman whose vibrant life ended in a drainage ditch. It was obscene and he grieved for the events in a life that she would never feel, the love of a husband, the maternal love for her babies and the love of life itself. She was cold and alone, after the autopsy knives and saws, now waiting for repatriation to the cemetery in Virginia and a coffin draped with the Stars and Stripes. Strangers in dark suits standing on the clipped grass, to mark the passing of her life.
Oh Clarita, I’m so sorry.
At the Guacara river crossing, he stopped the car and threw the Sig down the gorge and into the river. Less than an hour later he saw the signs for Simón Bolívar International Airport.
Edge parked the Chevrolet in the long stay car park and grabbed his daysack. After a long walk to the terminal buildings, Edge approached the Turkish Airlines desk and spoke to the man on duty.
“Good afternoon. I have an open-ended booking on a flight to London Heathrow. Here is my booking number and reference.”
The man checked on the computer, “Ahh yes. Mr Edge, there are seats available on tonight’s flight if you would like business class.”
“Perfect. How long before boarding?”
“You will be called forward in around one hour, fifty.”
Edge took his boarding pass and headed for the business restaurant, where he had a good meal and two glasses of wine. He toasted “Absent Friends” and had to look away from an attractive woman with olive skin and long, dark hair. Get a grip! He contemplated buying a book, but knew he wasn’t in the mood to read it.
The passengers for the Turkish Airlines flight from Caracas to London, changing at Istanbul airport, were called forward on time. On the Boeing 787, Edge went into business class and while the passengers were being settled in, the senior steward had noticed Edge and spoke to him.
“If you want a quiet flight, after take-off and the seatbelt signs have gone off, you can move back to that seat on row B4.”
“Thank you. That’s very kind.”
After take-off the steward was true to his word and showed Edge to a seat in a quiet area of business class, “Can I get you anything to drink, Sir?”
“Yes please. Could I have a whisky, hot water and a paracetamol. I think I have the beginnings of a cold.”
“I’ll get a tablet from the first aid kit.” He looked back at Edge and wondered why he seemed to generate an aura of sadness. He had noticed his battered face and the cold, grey eyes, and he knew that this man walked hand-in-hand with violence, but it seemed as though violence had got the better of him.
Edge didn’t sleep during the long flight, constantly replaying events in his mind, always asking what if anything he could have done differently to keep Rivera alive. He was still thinking things through torturously, when the steward shook him gently.
“We will be landing in Istanbul shortly. Could you go back to your seat please, Sir.”
The Boeing landed and all the passengers decamped for the three hours wait for another aircraft to London. In the business lounge, Edge made a phone call to a Lincoln number.
“Hello?” said a rather rich, deep voice.
“Mr Cutler, it’s Mark Edge. You have probably received the flash drive and if you haven’t already, please look at it. I’m afraid that I’m in a spot of bother…”
The Turkish Airlines Airbus 321 made its final approach to London Heathrow in the late afternoon. Edge was in no hurry to disembark and waited while the rest of business class collected their hand baggage and left the aircraft. He went down the now quiet passenger tunnel towards passport control. He showed his passport and the official looked at it and then at him. Two more officials and two armed police moved in on the passport booth.
“Mr Edge, Could I please ask you to accompany us.”
It was no surprise. He had been expecting this. His daysack was taken off him and Edge was shown to an interview room. It was bare apart from a table and three chairs and Edge sat down to wait.
© Blown Periphery 2022