Fate's Last Turn

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Chapter 17

Back in Bielefeld it was three days after the incident at the flat when Loopy, having been kept in his cell for all but a few hours of each day for fear he might kick off again at any moment, was at last put in front of the CO to explain himself. The CO was Captain Burke, a bit of a chinless wonder who Loopy knew very well. A devout Christian who attended church every Sunday, Captain Burke had taken Loopy under his wing to a certain extent after reading the records of the young man’s horrendous background after he’d first been posted out to Bielefeld. Burke had considered it an opportunity to be charitable, to support an abandoned soul and give him every chance to fulfil his potential. He was quite proud of the way his protege had responded to the extra guidance and compassion he’d received up to that point so this incident had come as a shocking disappointment to him.

Loopy had never been on ‘orders’ before personally because up to that time he’d always managed to keep his nose clean, but he had been in the guard commander’s position a few times when one of his fellow soldiers had messed up. It was usually trivial charges such as shoddiness, insubordination or drunken behaviour. Burke always appeared to be in a tetchy mood when presiding over such irritating deviations from the expected soldierly conduct. The reprobate would receive a stern tongue lashing but usually a surprisingly lenient punishment such as extra guard duties or a few days on fatigues. As commanding officers went, Burke was considered a bit of a soft touch. However, due to the seriousness of the charges Loopy was taking nothing for granted. Causing such a disturbance and trashing his apartment, resisting arrest, threatening behaviour, putting the fear of god into his civilian neighbours and damaging the reputation of the garrison was a different kettle of fish. Such a display of uncontrolled violence all added up to Loopy’s career being in serious jeopardy. It might lead to him getting busted back down to lance corporal or even down to craftsman. Loopy had therefore used the three days he’d so far spent in the guardhouse to think carefully about how he would handle it. He had come to the conclusion that honesty was the best policy but there was no harm in a bit of embellishment. He would lay it on thick, plead temporary insanity, anything he could think of. Without doubt, expressing his most heart felt apologies and deep regret would be an essential part of pleading his case. Being well aware of Captain Burke’s strong Christian beliefs, he might even try and chuck in something about the sanctity of marriage. There wouldn’t be a lot of time to get his explanation over though so he had planned his strategy carefully.

The guard commander was a sergeant who Loopy only knew slightly. Together they marched at double time into the CO’s office where he was stood to attention in front of the desk and saluted. The sergeant yelled into his face.

“Number! Rank! Name!”

Loopy replied smartly with the relevant information and the sergeant took a sharp pace back to allow proceedings to commence. Loopy stared ahead, focusing on a spot on the wall above the CO’s head and concentrated on looking suitably sorry for himself. Captain Burke read out a concise description of what had occurred and then gave a long spiel about the seriousness of Loopy’s behaviour. How disappointed he was in someone who he considered to be one of his best prospects. How the plans he had envisaged for Loopy’s future were now in tatters. He went on for quite some time before finally asking.

“What have you got to say for yourself Corporal Woolf?”

This was it. Loopy gave it everything. He owned up to everything on the charge sheet and apologised unreservedly for his behaviour. He followed with a few references to his deprived and brutal childhood and explained how difficult it could sometimes be to control the anger and frustration inside him. He went on to describe Kathleen as the love of his life and made a show of fighting back the tears but didn’t try too hard, allowing one to trickle down his cheek as his voice cracked with emotion. He professed how much the army meant to him and how hard he was going to work to restore the respect that everyone had previously had for him. It was a masterful performance by anybody’s standards. By the time Loopy finished the CO was shaking his head with genuine sympathy for him but was not going to let the incident go unpunished. He had to set some sort of an example to others.

There was a pause while he considered his options.

“Corporal Woolf. You had been due to go on a sergeant’s course very soon, hadn’t you?”

“Yes sir.” Loopy replied smartly

“After the successful completion of it you would have been posted to a new unit and we would have found ourselves a new corporal to take over your duties here. Now, because of this bloody mess I’m not going to allow you to go on that course. It’s being deferred as we speak. But the wheels have already been set in motion to get us a new man posted in to replace you and it would be unfair on him to change things at this late stage.”

He paused for quite a long time, deliberating as if struggling to make a decision.

“No, you won’t be going on a sergeant’s course until you have proven yourself again to be a reliable and trustworthy corporal.”

Loopy began to sense that proceedings were going pretty well. At least the CO had hinted that he would retain his rank.

“What I’m going to do is order you to spend fourteen days in custody. Hopefully that will give you time to consider your future and impress on you and everyone else that this sort of behaviour won’t be tolerated.” continued Burke. Loopy stared ahead impassively. He could do fourteen days standing on his head.

“However I can see that there are extenuating circumstances here. You’re understandably devastated by the estrangement of your wife. I’m sure most married men would have a strong reaction to what has happened, although I would hope not such a violently destructive one. I’ve taken your background into consideration here but I can’t believe how badly you lost control of yourself. It’s just not what we expect from our NCOs in the British army.”

Loopy clenched his teeth as the last sentence was spoken, hoping Burke wasn’t beginning to rethink his punishment. He needn’t have worried.

“Due to your excellent previous record and allowing for what you’ve just explained to me, I’m confident that this is nothing more than a hiccup. I’m therefore going to allow you to keep your present rank. After the fourteen days I want you to go on an extended leave. Take the time you need to get over what’s happened, get your head together and come back to your duties refreshed and ready to put your career back on track. But you won’t be coming back here. I want you to accept the posting, the one you would have been given had none of this happened. When you return it will be to.....” he paused and studied a document in front of him on the desk.

“....to BFPO37. I’m going to speak to the CO there, Captain Garret. I know him well. You’re being posted to 207 Signal Squadron in Soltau where you’ll join the LAD and be working on armoured vehicles. They’ve got 432s and 434s there and I know you’ve got experience of them. Captain Garret will have the opportunity to make someone else up to acting sergeant. Anything to say about that?”

Loopy couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome even though his expected promotion was going to be suspended for perhaps another year or so. The two weeks in nick would be water off a duck’s back and as for the posting, he wouldn’t mind at all getting back to work on armoured vehicles, he’d had enough of what he’d been doing in Bielefeld. Sensing an opportunity while the CO was in such a beneficial mood, he decided to chance his arm a bit further.

“Yes sir I want to thank you for believing in me and for the new opportunity. I wonder if I might ask one more thing.”

Captain Burke looked up sharply but before he could say anything Loopy continued.

“My foster parents, the only family I’ve ever had, live in Canada now and I haven’t seen them since I joined up in 1967 although we’ve kept in touch regularly by post. I’ve recently received a letter to say that my foster father is seriously ill and I was wondering if I might take the opportunity to go out there to visit.”

He paused for effect before adding “It might be the last chance I ever get to see him.”

“Excellent idea,” replied Captain Burke. “Once you’ve completed your time in custody we’ll give you four weeks, two on compassionate leave and two of them from your annual entitlement. That ought to be plenty of time. When you report back for duty you’ll be going directly to Soltau so factor that into your arrangements.”

With that, the proceedings were over and Loopy was marched briskly out of the office. Returning to the guardhouse to begin his fourteen days in chokey, Loopy’s face remained expressionless even though he felt as smug as he’d ever felt inside. Before the guard commander locked the cell door he muttered from the corner of his mouth.

“Fourteen days nick and then a bloody month’s holiday abroad. Well done son. I do a lot of CO’s orders and that was one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed.”

There was no reply from Loopy though. Despite the result his eyes had hardened again and the smouldering fury reignited in his gut. He was one step closer to getting over to America and catching up with the bastard who had ripped his life apart. One step closer to exacting his revenge. Travelling via Canada was perfect for what he had in mind. As for his foster parents, he’d not heard so much as a dicky bird from them since he’d joined up. They could be dead and buried for all he knew, or cared.

Alone again Loopy lay down on his bed to relax for a moment. He now had two weeks to meticulously plan his revenge followed by four more to put it into action.

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