Chapter 7

It didn’t take Julia and Martin long to get to the outskirts of Pontfael, and following the instructions they had been given by Christine they turned off right down a side road.

They were now driving into a different terrain. Shrub land turned into moor land with pockets of trees dotted across the landscape. As the day was beginning to fade it began to seem like a very lonely and eerie place.

“ I hope I don’t meet another vehicle coming along the lane the other way.” murmured Martin. “It’s very narrow here and there aren’t many passing places.”

“It needs a lot of repair as well.” replied Julia. “These pot holes need to be filled in. Wait! What does that sign say on that gate. Hopkins. This is it.”

Martin got out of his car and pulled the gate open. It yielded without much effort and Martin could see that other vehicles had passed through recently. Getting back into his car and grimacing he said. “I don’t like driving on this surface in this car. A land rover would be better.”

He looked at the ruts and bumps in the drive. “If it gets any worse we’ll have to walk down to the house.”

They drove along slowly for about a quarter of a mile, then after rounding a bend, they saw the old farmhouse before them. It looked as if it had been unoccupied for quite some time. Moss had grown on the roof of the main house building, and the windows were dirty, the bottom ones were covered with slime and overgrown shrubs. There were barns nearby which were falling down, their stone walls crumbling and the corrugated roofs were rusty and full of holes. Weeds and thistles grew up through the floors of the barns where old pieces of ancient farm machinery were kept.

They got out of the car and Barney jumped out for a sniff around. Julia shook her head. “It all needs pulling down.” she said. “There’s too much work for us here.”

Martin took a walk around the yard. “I wonder how much land there is?”

“From the write up in the estate agents window it said four acres,” replied Julia.

“Let’s look in the field over there.” Martin said, and they strode off, passing a stagnant pond and climbing over a small stone wall to get there. Nothing other than grass and weeds were growing in the field and Martin kicked at the soil.

“Very stony and very poor soil.” he said. “Nothing much will grow here. It’s only use would be for cattle or sheep. I’ve seen enough. Lets go.”

They made their way back to the farmhouse and Julia peered in through one of the windows.

“Ugh! What a mess.”

Barney began sniffing and pawing at the door of the house, making whimpering sounds.

“What’s up boy.” Julia said, and went to pull him away. She noticed that there was a key in the lock and without thinking she turned the key and opened the door. Inside, the house looked dark and smelt musty. Julia wrinkled her nose.

“Why can I smell food.” she said.

Barney ran inside the house and Martin had no option but to go inside and try to find him.

“Why do you do this to me?” he said shaking his head at Julia, then laughing went in search of the dog. Julia followed behind holding her nose. Barney was found in what had once been the kitchen and he was pawing and wagging his tail at something in the corner of the room.

“Come boy. Away now” Martin got hold of the dog and put him on his lead.

The bundle on the floor rolled over and a weak voice said. “Barney?”

“Take the dog outside Jules. I’ll see to this.” Martin pushed Julia away and turned back to the person on the floor.

“Jules? Jules is that you?” a weak voice came from the bundle on the floor.

“Michael! Michael what’s happened to you?” Julia ran back with Barney at her heels.

“He needs a hospital Jules. Use your phone and take Barney away. I’ll see to Michael.”

Julia went outside but she was unable to get a signal on her mobile phone. She went back inside and told Martin that she would drive to the road and try again for a signal. Taking Barney with her she got back into the car and started to drive back up the rutted lane. Coming to the entrance to the farm she tried her phone again but there was still no signal, so swinging the car back onto the road she drove back towards the Inn where they had had their lunch. A couple of hundred yards along the road she saw coming towards her at speed, an old pick truck up which swerved across the road just missing her car.

“Idiot” she thought angrily and drove on.

After about a quarter of a mile she came to a layby and stopped the car again. Getting out of the car, followed by Barney trailing his lead, she tried the phone once more and this time she had success. She spoke swiftly, giving clear instructions about the help she needed.

The driver of the pick up truck having seen who was behind the wheel of the car he had nearly crashed into, made a swift U turn with a lot of difficulty in the narrow lane, and drove back the way he had just come. Seeing Julia standing in the layby on the phone, he stopped the car, and with his companion began to creep up behind her.

Julia finished her call and snapped the phone shut and she was just turning to call to Barney when she was grabbed by an assailant and they fell to the ground. Kicking and screaming she scrambled to her feet and managed a well aimed kick to the man who had grabbed her. Out of nowhere Barney came to her aid, snarling and snapping at the man’s legs. The man’s attention was now on the dog who had his teeth firmly sunk into the man’s leg. The younger of the two men made a move towards Julia, but seeing the rage on her face took fright and ran off into the trees.

Julia ran quickly back to the car, and leaving Barney grappling with the man, drove back to the farmhouse.

At the farmhouse Martin had found a kitchen knife and was able to cut off the gaffer tape which was tied round Michael’s wrists and ankles.

“I’m Julia’s husband Martin.” he said to Michael. “Julia has gone to phone for help. How do you feel?”

Michael tried to sit up but the effort made him feel weak and sick. Resting for a while he tried to stand but his legs buckled under him.

“Lean on me and I’ll try to get you outside into the fresh air.”

Half lifting, half dragging Michael they made their way slowly into the farmyard. Michael slumped down and leaned up against the stone wall of the house. With relief Martin saw car headlights coming towards them down the farm track.

“She’s driving too fast on that surface.” Martin thought wondering how his car chassis would stand up to it.

The car swerved to a stop and Julia tumbled out, tears now streaming down her face.

“I was attacked on the road.” she cried. “Two men from a pick up truck jumped me while I was just finishing the phone call. I managed to make the call. The police and ambulance are on the way, but Barney. I’ve left Barney.” Tears were streaming down her face, more for the dog than her own injuries. She knelt down to Michael.

“Will he be alright?”

Martin pulled her to her feet and hugged her tightly.

“Oh Jules! Are you hurt?”

She shook her head.

“I’m alright. Just shaken up. What about Michael?”

“I don’t know, he keeps drifting off into, unconsciousness. I’ve made him as comfortable as I can.”

“There’s a first aid kit in the car. Let’s see if I can clean his wound a little bit.”

Michael had a split down the side of his face which he had acquired when he was attacked in his home. His face had now formed purple bruises, and was badly swollen. Julia found some antiseptic wipes in the first aid box and gently patted the area round the cut.

The daylight had faded now, and a worse place couldn’t be imagined on this cold November evening. Julia began to shiver, as much with the reaction to her ordeal as with the cold.

Lights could now be seen coming slowly down the farm drive, and Julia prayed that it was the ambulance rather than the two assailants. Relieved she watched as a paramedic got out of the vehicle and came running towards them. He made his way to Michael and started to administer to him. A stretcher was fetched from the ambulance and Michael was carried from the scene.

With difficulty the ambulance made it’s way back up the drive and once on the road sped off towards the hospital.

Julia and Martin made their way back along the drive in Martin’s car. Waiting at the farm gate was a police car with D.I. Matthews anxiously stamping around outside. He shook his head in disbelief.

“I don’t know how you two did it, but if you follow me to the station you can tell me all the details. By the way, did you lose your dog?” Barney was looking out of the police car, his nose pressed against the window. “I found him wandering along the road, he looks as if he’s had a bump on his head.”

“Barney ! Barney my love , you’re safe” Julian cried running up to the car.

“Okay let’s go.” said D.I. Matthews “And I’m ordering Pizza for us all, is that alright? I don’t know about you but I’m starving”.

“ Mm. Getting that way.” replied Martin.

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