Chapter 3

An early call the next morning had Julia out and about and on her way to pick up Alan Robert’s dog Fred, an energetic Bassett Hound of about three years old.

Alan lived in a small house near the old race course and Fred was an easy dog to walk, he was well behaved off the lead, and he would always come when he was called. She would have plenty of time to get her jobs done,leaving the afternoon free to meet Martin and then go house hunting.

She had noticed, in the local estate agent’s window, an old farmhouse which was for sale. It looked very run down and needed a lot of work done to it, but it had extensive grounds and in time could be made into a viable property.

Although it was situated further along the coast than they would have liked, it seemed worth taking a look at. She found Alan’s house key under a garden pot and let herself into the hall. Fred came running up to her wagging his tail, eager for his walk. She decided a good long walk round the old race course, where they had walked Barney the evening before, would be the ideal walk for today.

The old racecourse was situated about a hundred yards up the road from Alan’s house. No longer used for it’s original purpose, it had been turned into a pocket park where it was much used by people walking their dogs, or by the occasional jogger, keeping fit.

Once inside the park she took off Fred’s lead and he ran off happily, sniffing and leaving his scent. Keeping to the path around the field, Julia made her way slowly around, stopping to chat occasionally with other dog walkers who were out enjoying this bright and sunny morning.

Always keeping an eye on Fred, she watched as he ran up to Bob, a collie cross breed, and smiled as they played, chasing each other around on the grass.

She looked round for Albert, Bob’s elderly owner and saw him sitting on a bench the other side of the field. Julia quickened her pace. She knew that Albert hadn’t been well recently, and today he was looking far from happy.

Catching her breath after crossing the field, Julia sat down on the bench next to Albert and they exchanged small talk together. Albert lowered his head and sighed deeply.

“Oh my dear, I don’t know what to do.” Albert choked.

“Can you tell me about it.” Julia said softly.

“I‘ve been offered a place in a residential home. I need to be looked after now, after my illness.” said Albert tears very near the surface. “It’s Bob. I can’t take him with me.”

At that moment Bob and Fred come running up and Bob put his head in Julia’s lap, gazing at her with his big brown eyes. “I can help you Albert.” said Julia without thinking. “He can come and live with me and I can bring him for his walk here and you can see him as often as you like.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.” replied Albert shaking his head.

“You’re not asking. I’m offering.” And Julia gave Albert a hug.

“What about Martin? Won’t he mind taking in another dog.?”

“Just leave Martin to me” smiled Julia.

Back at Alan’s house she let herself into the kitchen and finding Fred’s towel she wiped his paws clean.

Hearing a car pull up in the drive she let Fred run to the door his tail wagging.

“Flight was cancelled.” announced Alan taking off his coat and petting Fred who began to jump up.

“Hope he’s had his walk. I’m tired after all that driving for nothing.”

He laid his keys on the table and took his bag into the hall. Julia looked at the keys. Amongst them lay a red topped key, which looked exactly the same as Michael’s key.

“Coffee? asked Alan as he came back into the room. Julia shook her head. “We are off house hunting this afternoon. I want to go and have a look at that old farmhouse up beyond Pontfaen. It’s been on the market for some time now. From the photo it looks as if it’s in a badstate of repair, but we don’t mind hard work.”

She eyed the key on the table. “You don’t often see red keys like that.” She stated. Suddenly alert Alan replied “Air port security key.” and put the keys into his pocket.

“Have you seen one like it before?” he asked. Shaking her head Julia grabbed her things and walked to the door, eager now to be gone.

“I’ll be in touch.” Alan spoke softly as Julia drove off.

Alan went into the living room and picked up the phone and quickly dialled a number. “I think we should meet.” Was all he said, before ringing off.

***

“Julia knows about the key.” Alan addressed the members of the consortium. “She saw my key and asked me about it”

“So Julia has the key” stated James thoughtfully. “Now how did she find that? And what else does she know about our affairs?”

“I’m afraid I told her it was an airport security key.” said Alan contritely.

James scowled.

“Will you please tell me what this is all about? Remember I have been away and I seem to have missed all the fun” Christine had returned that morning from Cardiff to find a message on her answer phone to meet with the consortium at James’s house. She sat down and picked up a mug of coffee.

“It’s about Michael.” Alan said softly. “I’m’ afraid we have some bad news.” He quickly brought Christine up to date with yesterday’s happenings and as she did so Christine’s face lost all it’s colour and she began to tremble.

Slopping her coffee on the table as she put down her mug, Christine jumped up. “I have to go.” She choked grabbing her things and made her way to the door.

“My my. I wonder what that was all about?” said Jenny when she’d gone. “Anyway I’m going too. I think this key is your problem James.”

Picking up her coat, nodded to the others and she too left. “I think I’ll have a word with Julia.” James said to Alan. “We have to get the key back before she realises the significance.”

“You mean you will old boy, it’s your business not mine, but let me know when you have it.” he said, his eyes narrowing.

***

Christine sat in her car and dialled a number on her mobile phone. “Answer. Please answer.” She cried into the phone. After several attempts at dialling up the number and getting no reply she gave up and put her head in her hands. “What have I done? What have I done?” She cried.

***

After leaving Alan’s house, Julia drove home and picked up Barney. “Just time for a quick walk before we meet Martin.” she said to Barney who wagged his tail in agreement. They set off towards the coast for Barney’s usual walk along the mole.

She breathed in the sea air as she got Barney from the car and put his lead on. Although it was late November it was a wonderful day to be out and about. The sun was still shinning although there was still a slight breeze. She thought about the old farm house near the hills and wondered if it was really a good choice, to buy, but no harm taking a look at it she thought.

Passing the café she thought about the bad tempered man from yesterday and looked for him, but today the café was closed up and there was no sign of anybody around.

She turned towards the causeway and they started their walk. At the end of the causeway was the small building with the lighthouse on top. Martin had told her stories about how he used to sit on the roof and fish when he was a boy, and of the summer parties they held up there when he was a teenager. “If only that little building could talk” she thought as she approached it. “I wonder what’s inside.” She shivered suddenly, thinking what a good place it would be to hide a body. She tried to shake off the dark feeling and turned her back on the beacon and began to walk back towards the sea front.

Barney seemed to be very interested in the wooden building and was sniffing around wagging his tail and pawing at the door. She pulled his lead. “Away boy” she said and turned to see, striding towards her a large man with a yellow vest over black dungarees. She caught her breath and feeling anxious she pulled Barney towards her on a short lead.

The man nodded to her as he went past and with a key he opened up the door to the little wooden building. Overcome with inquisitiveness Julia inched her way back. The man had disappeared inside and she heard him whistling to himself as he went about his duties. She peeped inside and all she saw was the workings of the beacon and the man who was crouching down tinkering with dials. There was no room inside to hide a body and she shook her head.

“I’ve got too much imagination” she thought to herself pulling Barney away. “Let’s get back and meet Martin.” she said. They left the car parked at the beach car park and walked the short distance into the town. There were not many people about as holiday makers were long gone for the year. Walking Barney to the estate agents shop Julia popped her head around the door and asked if she could bring him inside.

Jenny Warriner, having just returned from James’s meeting of the consortium, was sitting behind her desk, idly playing with paper clips and she jumped at the sight of Julia and Barney. She ushered them in with her hand. “I know that dog” she said.

“I’m looking after him while his owner is away. Michael Shelly?” Julia replied.

Jenny looked down as if no longer interested.

“I’ve come about the old farmhouse which was in the shop window last week. It seems to have been taken out. I hope it’s not been sold.”

“Ah yes. The one near Pontfaen. I’m afraid the owner has withdrawn it for the time being. Is there anything else I can show you?”

“Nothing we can afford at the moment.” Julia shook her head feeling disappointed.

Leaving the shop she made her way to the fish and chip shop where she had arranged to meet Martin.

“Quick, they’re getting cold.” Martin said and opened the door of his car to let Julia and Barney in.

“We’ll eat these in our special place overlooking the sea.” he said with a secret smile. They drove to a little layby overlooking the bay. It was a beautiful view and on a good day dolphins could be seen playing in the waves.

They ate their meal, quietly remembering their first date two years ago. So much had happened since then to change their lives in the following months.

At length Julia told Martin about the old farmhouse being withdrawn from the market. “Well it’s a lovely day so why don’t we just go along and look at it from the outside.” said Martin. “We can give Barney and Dylan a good walk on the hills at the same time.”

Dylan had always gone with Martin when he went to work in his van, often lying in his bed in the back of the van sleeping. Before they drove off Julia told Martin of her walk that morning and how she had spotted a key like Michael’s on Alan’s key ring.

They sat silently for a while thinking about what it could mean. Then Julia remembered Albert and told Martin about his chance to move into a residential home and the problem he had with his pet.

She looked at Martin and their eyes locked for a heartbeat. Then Martin nodded. “We’ll take him. I’ll go and tell him tonight.” “No need.” said Julia hugging him. “I already have.” “Now we will have Bob and Dylan.” laughed Martin. “Time for a song.” The started to sing Mr Tamborine Man when Julia’s phone rang. She picked up the call.

“My name is James Warriner. I’ve been given your name by a friend of mine, Alan Roberts? I was wondering if we could meet regarding some business.?”

“You have an animal which needs to be looked after?” asked Julia. “Er. Yes. A dog. Nanook, a Husky. Look could we meet this afternoon? It’s rather urgent.”

“This afternoon.” Julia looked at Martin and he shrugged and nodded. “Fine would 2 o-clock suit you?” “Yes. I would like to meet you at your house if you’ll just give me your address”

“Well I usually come to the client’s house for the initial meeting”

“I’m having some building work done and it won’t be convenient. I’ll come to you” James’s tone of voice didn’t invite argument.

“4 Falconer’s Close. Do you know how to get there?”

“Sat Nav. See you at two.” And James rang off.

Julia looked at Martin. “His name is James Warriner and he wants to meet me at home” Julia said with a frown. “He has a Husky called Nanook.” “I’ve heard of him.” replied Martin. “He’s a barrister working from Carmarthen. He lives up on Sandy Close. Loaded. You should be alright with him, but I’ll come home with you if you’d rather, although I could go and see to Mrs Smith’s faulty plug this afternoon now.”

“You go and see Mrs Smith. I’ll be alright, after all I’ve got Barney to protect me” She laughed. “I promise that tomorrow we’ll go and see the farmhouse.” They packed away their lunch things and with a last look at the bay, Martin turned the van around and headed back to the beach car park where Julia picked up her car and drove home.


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