Chapter Twenty-Four

St Helens

January 29

Keith

I decided to walk both to and from the office today. I have always found that I think more clearly when I walk; and I have a lot to think about just now.

   A couple of years ago, when I felt the need to get away from it all, I decided to go to my ancestral home of North Wales and to stay in the spectacularly beautiful area of Snowdonia. I stayed at a hotel at Betws-y-Coed and my original intention was to chill out for a few days and do as little as possible. A few days reading, drinking and eating sounded just about right.

   Then, after lunch on my second day, I decided to go for a walk. I donned a pair of walking boots and set out. I had no destination in mind really. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky and I had a snack and something to drink in my backpack.

   There is only one way in and one way out of the Betws; you either travel to Capel-Curig or to Llanrwst in the other direction. I decided to head for Capel-Curig. I guessed it must have been about eight miles away which would have made it a round trip of 16 miles or so. Ambitious, but I decided it would do me good, so I set off.

   Almost three hours later I got to Capel and carried on until I decided it was time to refresh myself with a pint or two at the famous climbers’ pub, the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel.

   When I was well and truly refreshed, I walked a short distance to the Pen-y-pass Car Park which is the starting point for the Pyg track up to the summit of Snowdon. I decided to stroll along the path. I was joined by three girls who had also been liberally refreshing themselves and who, like me, had also decided to walk up the path.

   I have since discovered that the Pyg track is both the shortest walking route up the mountain, and the one that involves the least amount of climbing. Despite this, it is not the easiest path as I was soon to discover. The girls treated the whole thing as a huge joke and treated it like a walk in the park.  The path is around three and a half miles long and can be steep and rocky in places and soon their enthusiasm began to wane. After an hour, we all stopped to rest and have a snack. It was not a complete surprise that afterwards they decided they had had enough and turned back. I decided to continue.

   That was a mistake.

   The views of Snowdon on the Pyg track are among the best of any route to the summit and they really are spectacular. I enjoyed being on my own and found my thoughts turning to my career which was then non-existent. I had applied for a job with The Star agency as a last resort even though I really wanted to work on a daily. I had a healthy arrogance then and was convinced I was God’s gift to journalism. Actually, I think I still am! The difficulty I had was persuading the people who matter to recognise it! I know I am a good writer and journalist. My tutors on the NCTJ course told me so. In fact, I modestly reminded myself of the distinctions I achieved. As I trudged up the track, I decided to ring the Star’s boss, Jerry Reynolds, the following morning to find out what had happened to my application.

   I was sitting on an outcrop staring at the fantastic view that had unfolded in front of me. I studied the map I had brought with me. It seems I had reached Bwlch y Moch and from there the path climbed gradually to the intersection of the Pyg and the Miners’ tracks above Llyn Glaslyn, which is marked by a standing stone.

   I had reached a point just above lake Glaslyn and was mesmerised by the fantastic view of Snowdon in front of me, towering almost a third of mile above the glacial lake.

   I suddenly noticed that clouds had begun gathering and which appeared to be coming in my direction so I decided it would be sensible to turn back. I know only too well of the dangers of being caught in a cloud on a mountain. I also didn’t need reminding that I had the walk back to Betws to look forward to!

   I eventually arrived back at the car park, sat for a while to get my breath back and decided it was time to get going. I was tired and I knew I was tired. I could feel it in my legs and to make it worse, the light suddenly began to fade. The prospect of walking eight miles in the darkness is not one I relished. I was brought up on a farm in mid-Wales; literally in the middle of nowhere and I was used to the impenetrable blackness of the countryside at night. But that was a very long time ago and mum and I moved to Liverpool when I was just over seven-years old. Town dwellers don’t really understand what total darkness is because it is never really dark in cities, even on a cloudy night.

   I sat on an outcrop on the side of the road and decided to try and hitch a lift to Betws no matter how long it took. I had no intention of walking along an unlit road in total darkness. It was not a question of being scared; it was more a matter of not being able to see where I was going. To any oncoming car I would have been just a shadow, a wraith, if I hadn’t fallen into a ditch and broken my stupid neck, that is!

   Anyway, luck was on my side and within 10 minutes I could hear a vehicle behind me; a van as it turned out. The driver stopped and opened his passenger door. I climbed in gratefully. He asked where I was going and when I told him he just nodded and said in a slightly austere way that is not a good idea to walk along the road in the dark. I replied that I could not agree more.

   Back in my hotel, I ran a hot bath and let the exertions of the day melt away. Later, a home-made steak and kidney pie followed by several pints of Double Dragon just about finished me off. I slept like the dead that night.

   It took me about three days to recover. I smile at the memory now. I suppose if I hadn’t decided to ring Jerry, I would not be at the Star today and whatever I may think of the place, it did give me the break I was looking for.

   He took me on as a reporter and when the news editor – a dour man in his thirties called Alan Swain – decided he had had enough and left quite suddenly; I was promoted in his place. I had only been there six months. The rest, as they say, is history.

   I have almost reached Raglan Street and for some unknown reason I find myself thinking about my father who has also become something of a mystery. No, that isn’t quite right. He has always been a mystery and for most of my life I really haven’t cared because he has had no influence on my upbringing. But largely thanks to Amy I have begun to realise the importance of knowing who your parents are. It is things like diseases, for example. If there is a history of heart disease in your family, then you have an increased risk. Also, as a kid, even though I didn’t care, I began to realise the importance of a dad as well as a mum which is why I made up his back story when other kids asked me what he did and where he was. I instinctively knew, even then, that family history is important in establishing who we are.

   Also, what has made it even more germane and puzzling is why exactly has he returned to the UK? Does it have anything to do with me or is it yet another coincidence? As I said before I don’t believe in coincidences. If Paul Williams really has returned to the UK, it will be for a particularly good reason. What I need to find out is if that reason has anything to do with me.

   I open my front door and walk through to the kitchen. A mountain of washing up greets me, as does an even larger mountain of laundry in a basket in the corner. I sigh and stare at them both. There is no point in attempting to duck it. If I don’t go to the launderette, I will have no clean clothes to wear. Equally, if I don’t do the dishes, I will have no plates to eat my food on. And I know that if Amy comes around, she will give me an earful and call me an unruly slut.

   I decide to go to the launderette first, which is just a short walk away, and then while it is doing its thing, I will do the dishes. I congratulate myself on a bit of lateral thinking.

   The wash is well under way. I have filled one of their large machines and I sit there, slightly transfixed, watching the clothes become soapy and turning. Is there something a bit hypnotic about it or is it me? Am I becoming boring and introverted?

   As I sit there, staring, a name creeps into my consciousness. Colin Parker. Yet another enigma. What is he up to or am I simply being paranoid? Is he just an innocent, lonely, guy who enjoys chatting to a pretty girl when he gets the chance? Or is there something more menacing to it? I decide I will try and find out more about him, starting with a phone call to BICC, either tomorrow or next week. Then there are the sarcastic notes, mostly aimed at me. Were those really written by our unknown killer whom the witness saw or by someone else entirely?

   I stand up and tear myself away from the washing machine. It’s time to do the dishes!

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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