Chase arrived back at the hotel just after 5 O’clock. Walter stood in his usual place at the main entrance talking to everyone who happened to come by. Chase signalled to him that he would park his own car as he slowly drove past. He parked up, checked he had all his belongings, then got out and walked the short distance to where Walter was standing. After exchanging pleasantries with Walter he headed inside. He saw Ingrid behind the reception desk; she was talking to some guests while signing them in. She looked up when Chase passed and gave him a knowing nod of her head; he returned the gesture then climbed the stairs to his room. Dinner service started at 6 O’clock and ran through to 8.30, so he had plenty of time to attend to some matters at hand. Once inside his room he removed his jacket and threw it on the bed, unlocked one of the drawers and retrieved his laptop, then plugged it into a wall socket after placing it on the writing desk. He booted it up and logged into the hotel’s Wi-Fi. A short while later he had finished composing an email to Bradley giving him detailed information about the lodge, the legend, and his aunt’s current predicament – plus a brief outline on what he wanted him to do. He hit send then shut the laptop down. He stripped off and showered the day away then changed into some casual evening wear. Once he was set to go for dinner he decided to give Bradley a quick courtesy call – just to touch base and allow him to ask any questions he might have.
The dinner service was excellent. After dining Chase spent an hour or so in a comfy chair in the bar room drinking wine. He stayed there until 10.30 then decided to retire for the night. On his way he passed by reception and chatted a short while to Ingrid who didn’t appear to be at all busy and was rather glad of his company. Chase left her laughing after he told her an amusing anecdote about a customer’s fraudulent insurance claim; he bade her goodnight then darted up the stairs and to bed.
The next morning Chase rose early at 6.30. He had a quick wash and shave then got dressed and gathered his things. He sent a text to his aunt telling her that he was soon on his way, then went downstairs and had a very light breakfast. The morning traffic in such a sleepy area of Wales wasn’t at all bad and he reached the village car park he had used the day before at 8.10. He left his car and made his way to the coffee shop which, when he arrived, had a ‘closed’ sign on the door. He gave it a rap. Through the window he saw someone coming to the door to unlock it, the door suddenly flung open and a smiling Ingrid was there to greet him.
“Good morning, Henry,” she said. “Come in out of the cold.” She ushered him in then closed the door. “Celine hasn’t arrived yet, she’ll probably be here soon though. Would you like some coffee while we wait?”
“Morning Ingrid. Yes, if it’s no trouble,” he replied, admiring her all denim ensemble, pink sweater, and long flowing hair. He thought she was as pretty as a picture.
“No trouble,” she said. “Mother’s getting ready to open and the coffee’s available on tap as it were.”
Ingrid walked over to the counter and made Chase his coffee then brought it to him.
“Careful,” she said. “It’s rather hot.”
“Thanks,” he said, and took an experimental sip.
“Come. . .let’s sit.”
Ingrid went to a table and pulled out a chair and sat. Chase did the same.
“Is everything fine up at the lodge?” Asked Ingrid. “Anything to report?”
“As far as I’m aware everything’s fine at the moment,” he replied. “No calls, no texts, no nothing.”
“Well that’s good to hear, I can’t imagine what that poor woman has had to go through recently. She doesn’t deserve it.”
“Have you ever met Edward Petherton?” Asked Chase, raising an eyebrow.
“Thankfully no,” said Ingrid, letting out a sigh. “To hear about him is enough I would have thought.”
“Can’t argue with that,” he agreed.
“Are we driving to town, or are we bearing the cold and walking it?”
“I’m easy,” said Chase. “How long does it take to walk. . .it’s been a while.”
Ingrid rolled her eyes in thought.
“Oh, I would say about ten minutes. I sometimes walk it to the bank to deposit mother’s money on Fridays – that’s how long it takes me.”
“Let’s wait and see what my aunt prefers.”
“And speaking of. . .” Ingrid jumped up and went over to the door and opened it. A few moments later Celine walked in looking flushed.
“Morning dears!” She said, brightly. “What a frightfully ghastly cold morning, I don’t want to walk too far in that anymore.”
She gave Ingrid a quick hug, kissed Chase on his cheek, then whipped off her coat and threw it on the back of a nearby chair.
“That’s settled then,” said Chase, giving Ingrid a knowing look. “I’ll get my car and we can all go in that.”
“Settled? What’s settled?” Celine asked, looking to each of them in turn.
“Just before you came in we were debating whether or not to walk to town,” Ingrid answered.
“Oh I see,” said Celine. She sat on a chair taking in the warmth of the coffee shop. “Maybe in my youth, yes. But old bones my dears feels the cold more. But if it were summer, then that would be a different matter entirely.”
Chase laughed at his aunt’s dryish humour and glanced at his watch.
“Ok. Before I go,” he said, looking at his aunt. “Last night. Anything happen?”
“No dear, nothing. If anything did happen I promised to contact you. . .yes?”
“Yes of course. But I had to ask, you understand.”
Celine stood up and gave Chase an affectionate hug.
“Of course I understand my dear Henry.” She kissed him again on his cheek.
“Where’s Janice?” Celine asked, looking around the shop.
“She’s out back getting herself ready,” said Ingrid.
“I just want to say hello before we set off. I won’t be long.”
Celine went behind the counter and opened a door separating the shop from the private quarters and disappeared through.
“Right. I’ll get the car. Won’t be long,” said Chase, heading for the door after placing an empty coffee cup on a table.
“I’ll come with you,” said Ingrid, enthusiastically.
“Are you sure? Why not stay in the warm and wait?”
“The cold doesn’t bother me. Besides, it’s the start of an adventure. . .and I’m in!”
Chase smiled at her excitement and held the door open and beckoned her.
A short while later and, after Chase discovered how much a chatter-box Ingrid was once you got to know her a bit better, they reached the car park and Ingrid began a guessing game to identify Chase’s car. It shocked Chase when, after looking at all the cars currently in the car park, Ingrid went straight over to a silver Mercedes and stood expectantly by the passenger door. Chase held his hands up in defeat and released the central locking so Ingrid could jump in. The car was still warm after the long drive from the hotel but Chase turned it up a notch or two in anticipation for Celine’s sake. Minutes later the car drove down the narrow street and pulled up outside the coffee shop. He beeped the horn a couple of times and seconds later Celine emerged from the shop with Janice. Celine gave Janice a peck on her cheek, opened the back door and climbed in. Chase drove off beeping the horn again. Janice waved then goodbye. Next stop, Colwyn Bay, town centre.
It didn’t take very long until they hit the peak-hour traffic passing through the town and beyond. As far as Chase could tell the town centre hadn’t changed that much since he was last there, and after a quick update from both women he learned that his initial notion was true. With plenty of car parks to choose from Chase used the nearest one to their first port of call, the town hall. They left the car park and walked the short distance to the municipal buildings. The town hall, built in 1905, was a fine looking structure made from red brick and decorative sand coloured stone. It didn’t really look like a town hall but rather a plush hotel for the rich and famous. They traversed the few steps leading to the main door and entered. The warmth of the interior immediately hit them and Celine looked somewhat relieved to be inside and out of the cold streets. She guided them over to the reception window where a middle-aged woman wearing glasses sat studying a computer screen. She looked away from her screen when Celine and company appeared at the window. It took her a few seconds, but moments later the look on her face told the three standing behind the window that she recognised Celine and knew exactly who she was.
“Why. . .Mrs Petherton Chase. How wonderful it is to see you again. How are you?” The woman spoke to Celine as if in the presence of a major dignitary, which in actual fact. . .she was!
“Hello Mrs Wright,” replied Celine. I’m fine. And you?”
“Oh, I’m fine, thank you.” She suddenly appeared nervous and flustered mainly due to the fact that she was addressing a local dignitary through a glass window. She stood up and opened her office door and came out to personalise her less than adequate greeting.
“I. . .we had no idea that you were coming here today. If we. . .?”
“It’s fine,” cut in Celine, almost apologetically and taking hold of the woman’s hand. “This is not an official visit but one born from an inquisitive impulse, an historical itch as it were which we need to scratch.”
She indicated to Chase and Ingrid with an open hand.
“This is my nephew Henry Chase, and Ingrid, a close friend of the family. They are both here today to assist me.”
The woman looked up at Chase in wonder then held out her hand which he gently shook. She did the same for Ingrid who had to suppress a giggle at the vacant look on the woman’s face.
“Pleased to meet you both,” she finally managed to say. Chase and Ingrid returned her greeting.
When she recovered from her unexpected shock, she turned to Celine with a quizzical look.
“How can I help you today, Mrs Petherton Chase?”
“I will let my nephew explain, he’s the driving force here.”
The woman looked up at Chase again, expectantly peering at him through her glasses.
Chase cleared his throat.
“What we would like is to gain access to the hall of records. Namely, births, deaths, and marriages of the family Chase,” he said, succinctly.
The woman nodded.
“That is no problem, Mr Chase. If you would all kindly come and wait in the office, I’ll send for someone who can assist you further.”
She showed them into the office and offered them some chairs to sit on while they waited. She went back to her desk and picked up a phone and pressed a button on the keypad.
“Hello! Frank? Yes, it’s Amanda at reception. Mrs Petherton Chase is here and needs access to the hall of records. . .Yes, that’s what I said. Thank you.”
She hung up and turned round.
“Someone will be along immediately, Mrs Petherton Chase.”
Before Celine could thank her properly the receptionist’s phone rang and she hastily picked it up and answered.
“Hello. Yes she is. At this very moment.” She put the phone down again.
Celine looked at Chase and rolled her eyes as if through tedious boredom. Chase chuckled at the inevitable onset of brown-nosing which was soon to follow. And sure enough, moments later an MP entered and gave his humble apologies for not greeting her in the manner befitting such a dignitary of the local area, and offered his services if she required them. A young man then entered who was obviously the clerk for the hall of records, he stood by nervously waiting in the wings for the MP to finish his more than evident brown-nosing. When Celine finally managed to politely get rid of the MP and, after he had made his backwardly walking, cringe worthy exit, the young man stepped forward.
“Mrs Petherton Chase. I am Eugene Ghold. Pleased to meet you Madam. I will be assisting your party today. If you would all please follow me I will escort you to the hall of records.”
“Thank you Mr Ghold. Please lead the way,” said Celine, hiding her time wasting annoyance as best she could.
They all rose and followed the clerk down the corridor. Chase and Ingrid were quietly chuckling after sharing a private joke with each other, Celine heard it and gave them both a reproachful ‘shoosh’ gesture, but had obviously found the joke amusing also. The clerk came to a door which had a neat looking plaque attached to it saying ‘Hall of Records.’ He opened the door and invited the three of them to pass through. They had entered a far bigger room than they expected, it was filled with desks which all had desktop computers and screens sitting on them waiting for eager fingers to press buttons. There were other staff members too, some milling about, while some were sitting in front of computers. They all looked up when the door opened, gave a respectful nod to the party of three then returned their attention to their computer screens. Ghold closed the door behind them and gave a sweep of his hand across the room.
“As you probably know Mrs Petherton Chase, in these modern times all our archives are now digital, and this in turn makes it much quicker to locate what you’re looking for.”
“Very impressive,” ventured Celine.
Ghold went over to a desk and picked up three plastic cards and handed one to each of them.
“These are your visitors passes. They have a password written on them which will gain you access to the system. Use any available computer you like. All three of you may use separate machines if you prefer. And if you need any assistance at any time, please do not hesitate to ask me, or one of my colleagues.
“Fantastic,” said Chase. “Thank you. Can we take print outs?”
“Yes you may print any document, it’s all public domain. However, there is a charge of twenty-pence per copy to cover paper costs.”
“That’s fine,” said Chase.
“If there’s nothing else?” He looked at them for a moment. “Then I will leave you to your research.”
Ghold gave them each a respectful nod and went about his normal duties.
Celine looked at Chase. Ingrid did likewise. They both looked like children suddenly let loose in a candy shop not knowing what to do first. Chase went over to an available computer and indicated to the two women to grab a couple of chairs and pull them up. This they did while he logged in to the system. Celine removed her heavy coat and hung it over her chair. The three of them then sat together all bunched up staring at the screen as it came to life and awaited further instruction. The home screen appeared which had many various options for the user, Chase looked down the available listings and found the three he needed: Births, Deaths, and Marriages. All three options had an ancestral link all dating back to when records began. He clicked on the link for ‘Births’ and a dialogue box appeared for him to type in a name. He typed in Hubert Chase and waited. The two women leaned in closer as a new information window came up. And there he was, in name only, but there to read nonetheless. The three of them all read in silence as they all learned the official version of Hubert Chase’ life and death.
“Ingrid. Can you punch up that story you read out to us yesterday about the lodge?” Asked Chase, turning to look at her.
“No prob,” she replied. “I have it book-marked. Anything in particular you want?”
“Just to verify dates, that’s all.”
Ingrid produced her phone from a pocket and clicked on the link.
“Err. . .blah blah blah. Legend dating back to the sixteenth century. Hubert Chase was allegedly murdered by sister Beatrice. . .she died one year later. Blah blah blah. . .the lodge then passed on to eldest son, Robert. No specific dates stated.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Chase. We’ve got enough here to verify the date. It’s all true!”
Celine sat back in her chair still staring at the computer screen.
“So if that part’s true, then. . .?” She couldn’t finish the sentence.
“If that part’s true, it doesn’t mean the rest of it is,” said Chase, turning to check on his aunt.
“Yes, you’re quite right dear, I should know better.”
Chase hit the print button and a nearby printer started up and began copying the information. While that was going on he cleared the name from the search engine and typed in another name, Beatrice Chase. A few moments later they all began to read about her life and death. Her death occurred just as the story Ingrid had found claimed, one year later, on All Hallows Eve, 31st October, 1518. Hubert Chase had died one year earlier, 31st October, 1517. This corroborated the time frames given in the legend, but the validity of the legend still remained in doubt. At present, the only undeniable facts were, that the two deaths in question did indeed occur and the official reported verdicts were true.
“Oh my word,” said Celine. “What does it all mean?” She stared at Chase as if seeing right through him.
Chase calmly smiled at her.
“Aunt Celine. It means that we haven’t finished yet.”
He hit the print button.
Ingrid suddenly piped up.
“Excuse me both of you, but I’m going to use another computer. It might save us some time.”
“Sure thing. Fill your boots up!” Said Chase, as he watched her sit down at another work station. After logging in she began typing on the keyboard.
“What are you searching for, dear?” Asked Celine, looking at Ingrid.
“Architecture,” replied Ingrid. “You focus on people, I’ll focus on buildings, or the lodge to be precise.”
“Henry, dear. Can we see our lineage or family tree as it were. Can you put that on the screen?”
“You read my mind,” said Chase. He hit a cross reference link and moments later the entire Chase lineage appeared on the screen. He hit the print button.
They both studied the screen, reading about family members they had never heard of before. It was a fascinating education for the pair of them and made them feel a part of something far bigger than themselves. Chase focused his attention to the latter part of the list and found a name which was familiar, he clicked on it and waited. The name Albert Chase and relevant history now occupied the screen, and as Chase read the text he found that it aligned itself with his aunt’s memory of him. He died on April 10th 1962. Verification successful. No suspicious circumstances.
“That’s it said Chase,” turning to his aunt. “I think we have all we need from the archive.”
Celine looked glum and melancholic, almost tearful.
“Aunt Celine? Are you all right?” He asked, looking concerned.
“I’m all right, dear. When I was reading the family tree, my sister – your mother’s name jumped out at me and I just couldn’t help but feel sad about the fact that she’s gone. It just drove it home. you know?”
“I know,” said Chase. “I feel it too.”
Ingrid had noticed and came across to where Chase and Celine were seated.
“Come on Celine,” said Ingrid. “There’s a washroom down the hall. You need a break from this.”
Celine said nothing. She got up and allowed Ingrid to escort her from the room. Ingrid looked back at Chase and gave him a smile and knowing nod, then passed through the open door into the corridor. Chase finished up and logged off. He gathered up all the print-outs – his and Ingrid’s, returned the pass cards to Ghold, asked where he should pay for the prints, grabbed Celine’s coat and left the room. On his way back he visited the gents washroom to freshen up, then went back to the reception desk. The woman behind the glass smiled at him and enquired if he had got everything he had hoped to get, Chase said he had and produced the stack of prints for costing. She politely told him that there was no charge, an order from above. Chase didn’t argue but thanked her for the generosity. Behind him, against a wall, was a row of chairs, he sat down on one of them and waited for Celine and Ingrid. He checked his watch and to his astonishment the time was now 12.10! Apart from unwanted interruptions Chase felt that their time here was well spent and much had been learned, and more importantly, stories had been verified with facts. As he pondered more on his family’s history Celine and Ingrid came down the corridor, he stood up to greet them and immediately saw that his aunt was in a much better state than she was a short while ago. He helped her put on her coat and they all said goodbye to the receptionist then headed out into the midday cold.
“I think it would be a good idea to get some lunch before going to the library,” suggested Chase. “Anyone agree?”
“yes, dear. That sounds like a good idea. Ingrid?”
“Yep. I’m in,” chirped Ingrid.
“Ok. Where to go? Do we want take-out or eat in?”
“You know what I think,” said Celine. “In.”
“You know the town better than I do. Where should we go?” He asked.
“There’s lots that do lunch service,” said Ingrid. “Depends how posh you want to be.”
“Definitely not posh,” Celine stated. “Follow me, I know somewhere moderate and quiet.”
Celine led the way down a couple of streets until they eventually turned into a cul-de-sac where a few shops stood. She led them down to about half way and pointed to a doorway. She opened the door and allowed Chase and Ingrid to go inside then followed them in. They had entered a dimly lit room divided into private partitions where tables stood, some empty, some occupied. The smells made all their stomachs rumble and made them realise that they were indeed hungry.
A waiter suddenly appeared out of the gloom, his face lit up when he saw Celine.
“Madam Celine! Ages have I not seen you. How been you? Ok!”
He walked up to her and they shared a hug, Chase immediately recognised that they had a familiarity and probably had known each other for years.
“Hello Angelo!” Said Celine, beaming a smile. “I’m fine. Were hoping for a light lunch, nothing fancy you understand but something quick. We’ve got about an hour.”
“No problemo, Madam Celine, Angelo will look after you,” said the waiter, enthusiastically.
He directed them to a table and turned a wall light on, the table was now enveloped in a soft, warm glow. Celine removed her coat which Angelo hastily hung on a hook. He then went off and returned with three menus which he carefully handed out.
“I come back in little while when ready to order.”
“Thank you, Angelo.”
“Well this is very nice,” said Ingrid, looking around at the decor with appreciation. “In all the years I’ve spent coming to this town I never knew this place existed.”
“Is there anywhere we can go in this town where you haven’t got celebrity status,” asked Chase, jokingly, while studying the menu.
“If you look hard enough, dear. . .if you look hard enough.” Celine retorted. “I used to run an all female country club in years gone by, and each month we would come here as part of a regular meet. It was a social thing more than anything else, and Angelo had the fairest prices for miles around – and the most scrumptious food, too. Next question?”
“Well, whatever. It’s a really nice place.”
“Agreed,” said Chase, as he decided what to order himself.
Ten minutes later and, after placing their respective orders, they were each enjoying a light lunch at Angelo’s. They talked about anything and everything, but once they had finished eating and were sipping tea or coffee, the conversation naturally directed itself to their next stop. The library.
“So, tell me again. What do we hope to find at the library?” Celine asked.
“Loads of stuff,” replied Ingrid. “A library is not just a place to store written volumes of the ages or fictional literature, it’s so much more than that.”
“What do you mean, dear?”
“Well, for starters. It doesn’t just deal in facts but expands on popular mythology of any given age. Yes, you can go there in search of facts for any given subject, but facts are not what we’re looking for – we already have that from the town hall. We’re not going to find out any truth about the legend in a library, but what we are looking for and hopefully will find, is specific reportage from a definite time period. What happened at the lodge in nineteen-twelve for example?”
“Ah, so you mean press stories?” Said Celine, now understanding what Ingrid meant.
“Yes, that’s right. Among other things as well.”
“I couldn’t have put it better myself,” confessed Chase.
Chase checked his watch: 13.12.
“Ok. We should go. How far is the library from here?”
“Back up the high street and left. About five minutes walk,” said Ingrid.
“Aunt Celine. . .still with us?” He asked.
“Yes, dear. I’m much better now and ready to forge on!” She gave Chase a broad smile.
They gathered up their things, Chase paid the bill, they all said ‘cheerio’ to Angelo and departed the restaurant.
A few minutes later they stood at the steps of the public library. Ingrid felt an uncontrollable excitement building up inside her while Chase was in a more reflective mood. Celine slightly dreaded the forth coming experience but was determined to stay strong, come what may. They climbed the steps and entered the building temporarily unaware of the hidden treasures they were about to discover.
disclaimer: any similarities in names to persons living or dead is purely coincidental and are fictitious characters invented by the author.