Chapter 6

By the time Julia’s statement had been written, typed, read through and signed it was just after 11 o clock.

“I shall be late walking Meg.” said Julia.

“Well let’s hope that they haven’t taught her to tell the time.” quipped Martin. “I’ll meet you at 1 o clock at the beach car park, then we’ll get some lunch and have a relaxing afternoon viewing the farmhouse.”

“Yes. I’m looking forward to getting away from all this trouble for a few hours.” replied Julia.

Martin strode off into the town to pick up his van, and Julia got into her car and headed off to Jenny Warriner’s bungalow.

Turning into Jenny’s drive, Julia positioned her car beside the boat.

It was a large bungalow prettily bordered by a garden filled with shrubs, with a neat and tidily kept lawn.

Finding the key easily under the stone by the hydrangea bush, Julia let herself into the bungalow. A little white West Highland Terrier trotted out of the kitchen to meet her and Julia gave her one of the dog treats that she always carried with her. I think we’ll get on fine thought Julia ruffling Meg’s fur.

Jenny had left Meg’s lead and an old towel draped over one of the chairs in the kitchen. Julia looked around her. The bungalow looked about two years old, spotlessly clean, with wooden kitchen furniture. There was a space in the kitchen where a cooker would normally go. I wonder what she cooks on, thought Julia. Meg was eager to get started on her walk and so Julia put her on the lead and after locking up the bungalow, they started off down the drive.

Taking the road towards Haven’s End, as Jenny had suggested, they walked for about 10 minutes before coming to the crossroads. Taking a right turn they headed down the hill. There were no footpaths on this road, but Julia had on her yellow over vest and made sure that she walked on the correct side of the road.

Julia glanced at the properties which were infrequently spaced along the road. They were all large houses set in plenty of ground. One house in particular had stables at the back which could just be seen from the road. Outside the stables a horse was stamping around while two girls were holding the bridle and trying to calm the horse.

Julia moved on down the road and after a while she came to the brook. She stopped and leaned over the bridge watching the fast running water as it made it’s way down to the sea, lost in her thoughts. It was such a peaceful and quiet place, and although the weatherman had forecast rain, late November sun filtered through the trees which bordered the road, brightening what could otherwise be quite a dark area.

Mindful of the plans she had made with Martin and the time, she pulled Meg’s lead in, and they turned to retrace their steps.

She was halfway up the hill when she heard the sound of a vehicle behind her. She glanced back and saw a land rover with some kind of trailer on the back coming up the hill. Unconcerned she continued her walk, happy in the knowledge that she could be well seen, and there was plenty of room for the vehicle to pass.

The noise of the car became louder and glancing behind her again she saw that the driver was now on her side of the road and heading straight towards her.

Wondering if she had been set up for an accident, she jumped onto the grass verge, pulling Meg with her. With her heart beating wildly she watched as the land rover with a horse box on the back, turned into the drive of the house with the stables.

He needed a big swing into the yard, she thought as relief swept through her, She decided she really must get her imagination under control.

Stepping back onto the road she reviewed the situation. Her boots were now caked in mud and Meg, who had taken the opportunity to investigate the ditch, now looked more brown than white. They hurried the rest of the way back to Jenny’s bungalow, the little dog trotting happily at Julia’s side after enjoying eventful morning’s walk.

On reaching the bungalow, Julia was surprised to see another car in Jenny’s drive. She had seen the car before but couldn’t remember where, and she thought that Jenny must have returned.

She tapped on the door of the bungalow and taking off her boots in the porch walked inside.

“Hello” she called, carrying Meg into the kitchen, and then dropped her in sudden fright when she saw James Warriner standing there.

“Well.! Julia Jones the dog walker.” stated James.

“Jules. Everyone calls me Jules.” It was all she could think of to reply.

She stared at James. Today he was dressed in jeans and jumper, and with his hair falling over his face instead of being slicked back, he seemed somehow vulnerable, and he didn’t look half as frightening as he had when he visited her yesterday.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Julia.

“Well in a manor of speaking, this is my house.” replied James “Or at least it was bought with my money.” he said to himself.

“I’m measuring up the space here to see if my Aga will fit into it.” James raised his eyebrows. “What makes you so inquisitive?” he asked.

“It’s a gift I have.” Julia quipped and after staring at each other they began to smile.

Feeling that he owed Julia an explanation of his actions James said. “I know that you saw me at the police station this morning. Please let me explain. When I left you yesterday I realised that Nanook needed a walk, and just up the road from you there’s that piece of waste land, so I took Nanook for a walk before we headed home. I was out longer than I expected and when we got back to the car I noticed that someone was trying to get into your house. I had watched you go out so I knew the house was empty. I walked Nanook down the road and confronted two men who, when questioned, ran off. I then phoned the police and they came to check that everything was alright. Your two dogs were barking and making such a row it’s a wonder they didn’t put the two burglars off.

And I know about the item you found in Michael’s security box. I have informed the police about my interest in getting it back. It really is mine. I gave Michael the money to buy it for me on his last trip to Greece. He was going to bring it back from the airport on his return from London on the day he went missing. Jules, I’m so sorry if I caused you any discomfort yesterday with my brash manner. I need the dragon so that I can re-sell it for some ready cash. Jenny’s bleeding me dry.”

James looked down and knowing he had said more than he intended to, he glanced up at Julia.

“Sorry you don’t want to hear my troubles.”

They sat for a few moments in silence, Julia not knowing what to say.

“I must thank you for chasing off the men. They might have trashed the house if they’d got in. As for the dragon, when they find Michael he’ll be able to explain everything.” she ventured weekly.

James’s steel blue eyes took on a tight piercing look.

“I have great fears for my old friend.” he said as he stood up.

Julia picked up Meg and took her to the sink and started to clean her off in a bowl of warm water.

“We had a bit of an incident near the brook and we both got ourselves dirty.” She explained. “You are a muddy girl.” She said to the dog rubbing her clean with the towel.

“Just when I have to meet Martin too. We’re going to look at the old farmhouse over Pontfael way.” she said making conversation.

“Well you get off now, I’ll see to Meg. She’s used to me aren’t you girl?” James softened again as she rubbed the dogs legs. “I’m sorry to have kept you talking.”

“James. I think it was good that we talked. It helps to clear the air.”

Julia went into the porch and put on her boots.

“Give my regards to Jenny.” she said as she opened the door to leave.

James stared at Julia his eyes narrow and menacing again, then turning on his heel, and without another word he walked back into the bungalow closing the door behind him.

“A very strange man”, thought Julia as she drove to the beach car park. “I can’t make him out at all.”

Arriving at the beach car park, she saw Martin’s van parked next to a land rover, but of Martin there was no sign. He’s gone for a coffee she thought. She locked up her car and strolled round to the sea front.

Martin was sitting on the bench outside the café and sitting opposite him was Christine Hughes.

“At last.” Martin exclaimed. “You’re late.”

Julia kissed Martin, petted Barney, who Martin had brought with him, then went and sat down and greeted Christine.

“I came here looking for my brother.” Christine said. “And found Martin instead. The café is all closed up and John’s not at Ocean World, which is his other business. I can’t get him on his phone either.”

“Your brother owns the café?” asked Julia thinking of the grumpy rude man of yesterday.

“Yes, but business is slow at this time of year. I expect he’s off to earn some money somewhere else. Jules, I’m glad I’ve seen you. Martin has told me of your plans for this afternoon, going to look at that old farmhouse. It’s a terrible place by the way, I know it of old, but I would like you both to come over to my cottage tomorrow as I have a business proposition to put to you.”

Intrigued at what kind of business Christine had in mind Julia replied. “Sure. About 11 o clock alright?”

“I’ll see you then. Enjoy this afternoon.” Christine got up and waving goodbye returned to her car.

“Nice lady.” Martin said.

“She owns the most beautiful cottage, on the Narberth Road, well you’ve been there with me. The White Cottage. The one with the two horses and the goats. It’s an idyllic place to live, more ground than Christine can manage though and it needs a lot of loving care. I wonder what she wants to see us about?”

“No idea. Perhaps she’s taking on more animals which need looking after. So. Let’s go and see if the old farmhouse could be made into the perfect place to live.” smiled Martin. “But lunch first I think.”

Julia laughed. “You and your tummy.”

They sat finishing their meal at the Travellers Rest, a small pub half way towards Pontfael. A log fire burned in the grate making the pub lounge feel warm cosy. A nice place to linger on a November day.

Julia recounted her experience of the morning and her encounter with James.

“I think he wants her back.”

“Do you mean Meg.” Julia said misunderstanding.

“No, Jenny. He wants Jenny back. What man in his right mind would spend his time measuring up a space in the kitchen to see if his own Aga would go in it.”

Julia thought for a minute.

“I wonder what split them up. James and Jenny. Mind you, James must be awful to live with. He blows hot and cold without any reason. You would never know where you stood with him.”

“More likely to be who split them up, than what split them up.”

“Whom? You mean he played away?”

“Or Jenny did.” replied Martin.

“Perhaps with Michael.” whispered Julia. “She might have had an affair with Michael, and now James is taking his revenge on his best friend.”

“Enough!” laughed Martin. “Stop with the imagination.”

Standing up he reached for Julia’s coat. “Let’s go house hunting. What am I going to do with you?” he said shaking his head.

“Buy me a farm.” She replied.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *