‘A Woman on the Edge’ – workshop project of prose and poetry, part 6

by Marie Marshall

Templeton Woods

Held in an irregular trapezoid between Dundee and one of its dormitory villages, bordered by a broken road, by the ordered twists and turns and straight-forwards of a golf course, by the rat-run to Coupar Angus, and crowned by a water-tower, is the wood where I walk. I prefer to pick days when I won’t meet anybody, so that in this patch, this scratch of trees on the map, this soledad, I can run and walk alone. I can lose myself, pretend I am in the depths of the antic Caledonian Forest; so I come midweek, maybe in the rain, deliberately to feel the breath knife my lungs and my heartbeat rise to meet it. I feel safe here, there is no denying. Sometimes I feel as though I could pull a blanket of fallen leaves over me and sleep, never to be found, although sometimes felt. I have run here in the dark, bobbing my torch to the fall of my trainers, veering crazily off the path and crashing into branches, and only the cold has held pace with me. I have deliberately stood here waiting for evening to overtake day, for the last sky-metal to turn edge-on to me and withdraw, for the blue-to-black sheath to take its blade, so that I could look up between the trees to see stars, shooting stars, tricks of the light that never came. All this so close to civilisation.

On the 20th of March 1979, eighteen-year-old Carol Lannen was witnessed getting into a man’s car in Dundee. Some time later her naked body lay here in Templeton Woods; she had been strangled, her clothes were never found but her handbag was discovered miles away in Aberdeenshire. A little short of a year later a shy young woman by the name of Elizabeth McCabe went missing. Rabbit hunters found what they thought was a discarded shop-window dummy lying very close to where Carol Lennan’s body had been found. Neither murder has ever been solved, each remains a cause célèbre, and a torment to those who knew and loved each victim.

And yet I still come here, willing myself to be lost, to be alone. Day after day I cross the trail of other walkers, I find litter, hear a dog barking. Woods like this one right here on the edge of things are debatable places. They ought to be wild yet so much of them is touched daily – we come for solitude, for exercise, maybe for sex, for thought, for stars. Twice, as recorded, to leave the aftershock of pain and terror. Oh God, there are edges and then there are edges.