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Halloween horror at Camp Twaddell

By Squinter

Big Geordie flexed his pudgy fingers furiously. The pyjama cord that bound his wrists behind his back had cut the blood flow until his hands were white and numb.
From across the tiny caravan table scarred with cigarette burns and UVF graffiti, the stranger studied his face silently and intently by the soft light of the mantle. His hands were flat in front of him and between his thumbs lay the fearsome nine-inch cook’s knife.
“What have you done with Stewarty?’ asked Big Geordie, shifting in his seat.
“Oh, he’s just fine,” said the stranger. “Trussed up like a turkey at Christmas. Tell me, does that bloke always sleep so heavily? He didn’t wake up once and I was kneeling on his chest.”
“Listen, mate, Stewarty has enough Buckie in him to flatten a carthorse. You couldn’t wake him up with that baseball bat.”
Outside the wind moaned and a pair of tomcats shrieked from a backyard wall.
“Look,” said Big Geordie, leaning forward slightly. “I haven’t a clue why you came here tonight. I don’t know who you are or what you want. But I haven’t done anything to you and I don’t deserve this. You can just walk away now and we’ll pretend this never happened.”
The stranger leaned forward too until the men’s shiny heads were almost touching. “Oh, I think you know me, Geordie. I think you know me just fine.”
Big Geordie frowned and stared deep into the stranger’s eyes. Through the window black clouds scudded across a crescent moon and suddenly he thought he saw something – something chillingly familiar. He stood up suddenly and the cordless trousers of his Proud to be a Prod pyjamas fell to his ankles. Big Geordie went commando. Big Geordie didn’t care. “You’re not… It can’t be… You’re supposed to be…”
“Dead, Geordie. Don’t be afraid to say the word. I’m supposed to be dead. Now pull your trousers up and sit down– that’s not a pretty sight.”

Halloween night, 1988. Palace Barracks, Holywood; mess room, 7/10th Battalion UDR (City of Belfast).
Big Geordie threw his beret on a table and slumped into an orange plastic stack-chair. He pulled a 10-pack of Embassy from the breast pocket of his private’s tunic, lit up and inhaled deeply and greedily.
“Well?” The question came from a thin man at the same table with a clipped English accent, chickenpox scars on his chin and a crown on his shoulders.
“It’s all set up, major. Your man’s tied to a chair in the back room of the Flag and Flute – and he’s not there for the Halloween party, if you get my drift.”
“Fine. Get changed,
private, and off you go.”
Big Geordie stood and saluted. “Right, major. NS, GSTQ, WATP, FGAU.”
“No surrender, major. God save the Queen, We are the People, For God and Ulster.”
“Yes, of course… whatever. Just remember, man, Don’t leave a mess and make sure he’s gone for good.”
“Very good sir. SYITB.”
The major sighed wearily. “Another delightful Ulster acronym, private? How charming. What is it this time?”
“See You in the Beano, sir.” Big Geordie turned and walked resolutely from the room.
The hooded man’s head was slumped on to his chest. Beside the chair to which he was tied stood a dozen beer kegs and a pile of brown boxes containing glasses of various shapes and sizes. A bare single bulb lit the room weakly. The man lifted his head as Big Geordie and Stewarty entered the room and the sound of an Orange party anthem from the Flag and Flute Halloween party filled the room, only to be muted again as the reinforced metal door clanged shut. The whizz and bang of illegal fireworks filled the night air outside and flashes of vivid colour lit up the high single window.
Big Geordie removed the hood from the man’s head and threw it to Stewarty. “Well, Tommy, I think we’ve gone beyond the stage where identification is an issue of concern.”
The man in the chair immediately understood the grim significance of the act. He swallowed hard and when he spoke his words came in a dry croak. “You don’t have to do this, Geordie. Give me a batin’, do the oul’ kneecaps. I’ll not open my mouth.”
“Out of my hands, big son.” He clicked his fingers and Stewarty handed him a rumpled piece of paper which Big Geordie smoothed against his chest before holding it with both hands up towards the bulb. “It is the judgement of the Ulster Volunteer Force that you are guilty of crimes against Ulster. The penalty is death. May God have… blah, blah, blah. Got anything to say before your date with destiny, Tommy?”
“Only that youse two are as guilty as I am, but yiz won’t write that down and you won’t tell it to your bosses, will yiz?”
“Tommy, your mouth was always your downfall, big son. Let’s go.”
The street lamps stopped as the car left Ligoniel and made its way through the dark and unmarked road up into the Belfast Hills. Big Geordie and Stewarty said nothing as they both smoked and watched the headlights on the tarmac. The muffled cries of the gagged man on the back floor were mostly hidden by the creak and rattle of the car as it hit potholes and bumps on the gradually narrowing road. Stewarty slowed the car as they saw the sign they’d been looking for – a Crazy Prices bag tied to a fence post. 20 yards on they took a left down a narrow, rutted lane and came to halt when they were out of sight of the road.
They opened the back door and dragged Tommy to his feet, pulling the patch of duct tap from his mouth as he became upright. “You can shout if you want, Tommy, nobody’s going to hear you up here except the cows,” said Big Geordie. “And maybe a hare or two.”
As Stewarty walked ahead with a torch, Big Geordie took Tommy roughly by the back of his collar and pushed him forward. As the three men walked, a barn owl screeched from a nearby ruin and the moon flitted behind the unseen clouds, casting a flickering pale light on the silent hills. Soon the path disappeared and the men stumbled over a rocky field that led upwards towards a small, long-abandoned quarry. As they stumbled up the rough terrain, the gathering wind doing its best to push them back, Stewarty turned and shone his torch into Tommy’s face, a broad smile cracking his thin features. “It’s alright for you, Tommy,” he said, pausing a bit for maximum effect. “You don’t have to walk back through this.” Stewarty switched the beam to Big Geordie’s face and the two men’s cackling laughter made the barn owl turn his vigilant head.
On a grassy mound to the left of the quarry cliff a grave had been neatly and recently dug, a long-tailed spade speared into the pile of newly-turned earth beside it. Tommy fell to his knees when he saw it, but was dragged by his captors to the grave’s edge, where he knelt with head bowed. Big Geordie raised the gun to the back of Tommy’s head. “Any last words, big son?”
Tommy twisted his head and looked deep into Big Geordie’s eyes. “Just that I’ll see you again some time.”
The shot echoed in the night, raising sleeping birds from the quarry face. Tommy’s body fell forward into the grave with a dull thud. “I don’t think so, big son,” said Big Geordie. “I don’t think so.”

It was Big Geordie’s turn to have his head in his hands. He closed his eyes ever
harder as if the force of the action could expel the horror from his mind. But the memory of that night flared ever more vividly in his reeling consciousness. And so he opened his eyes and slowly raised his head. Tommy hadn’t moved a centimetre, he was still seated directly facing him, but now above his left eye bone and tissue were exposed by a large gunshot
exit hole and a thick mask of caked blood covered one side of his face. Big Geordie screamed and fell to the side and on to the caravan floor, his pyjama trousers still down round his Timberlands. Tommy stood over him, a hulking silhouette blocking out the mantle light. He dropped to one knee and Big Geordie whimpered, assumed the foetal position and buried his head deep in his chest.
“Easy, Geordie, easy. I’m just going to fix your trousers. I know you and your pals like to hang loose in the caravan, but this is ridiculous.”
Tommy made the necessary adustments and pulled Big Geordie into a kneeling position, at the same time plucking the knife from the table. He grasped the sobbing man’s chin firmly and yanked his head backwards, laying the cold blade against his bobbing Adam’s apple. When he spoke his words were soft and mocking. “Got any last words, big son?”
Big Geordie opened his eyes and looked up at Tommy’s blooded face. “C-c-can you call Willie?” he stammered through his locked teeth. “T-t-tell him I died with my t-t-trousers up and the last thing I saw was our fleg on the camp gate.” Willie felt the knife press harder on his throat, the side with the tattoos of his kids’ names and a busty pole-dancer in a union jack thong. As he felt the first drops of thick blood from the opening cut flow warmly on to his shoulder, he felt his soul rise up into the night sky above the caravan; suddenly he saw Sadie and Lily smiling on their way to Twelfth morning service in their best bonnets and leggings; he saw himself and Stewarty grinning stupidly and necking Buckie on a pishy sofa in the boney hut; he heard the sweet, stirring melody of the Famine Song sung in breathy a capella by a girl in a Marilyn Monroe dress and an ankle tag at Twaddell’s Got Talent in the Flag and Flute. His blood was spraying thickly now, but in super-slow-motion, it seemed, covering the caravan door window, blocking his last-ever view of the flags on the gates. And as he swooned towards eternity, he knew he and his doughty band of protestors had done their bit. Big Geordie knew Ulster would be safe…

The smell was like a cross between Seriously Strong cheddar and a wheelie bin in August. It lay heavily over his face like a warm, damp blanket and as it finally clogged his thick nostril hair, he coughed and sat bolt upright like a kayoed boxer given smelling salts.
With a cry of fear and a four-letter oath, Big Geordie threw Stewarty’s right foot from his chest and sat up in the bed. The union jack duvet was in a pile on the damp floor and his comrade and bedmate lay horizontally across the sagging mattress in Nutts Corner Calvins and a Superdry t-shirt with a drool stain on the shoulder.
Big Geordie was drenched in sweat, it poured down his shiny pate and dripped into his stinging eyes, his breathing was fast and shallow. He sat at the kitchen table and watched autumn leaves dance in the yard in the weak morning sunshine and slowly a powerful sense of relief flooded over him as the realisation dawned that it had all been a horrible nightmare.
Stewarty’s bare feet slapped on the lino and Big Geordie watched him as he put on the kettle and, without asking, placed two mugs on the table.
“Looking forward to the Halloween party tonight, Geordie?” he asked, adjusting the gusset of his trunks and plopping teabags in the mugs.
“Stewarty, after the night I’ve had, mate, I’m going to party, as yer man said, like it’s 2099.”­

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