The local Dorchester library was Jennies first port of call, Christine Murdock was Ninety three and having retired as the librarian many years ago she now worked there voluntary as she found it the love of her working life and it kept her mind sharp also enabling her to be involved within the community. Jenny met her at Williams’s Supermarket where they had a truly awesome tea room. There they sat talking while having Tea Cakes, tea and coffee. Jenny had explained the reason behind the visit and the two old friends enjoyed each other’s company.
Christine was excited by the idea and looking over towards Jenny she spoke, “There is old reference material in our archive storage, but I feel it will not be in good condition, also St. Michaels should have old Parish records, as I remember those held the Priests version of what was happening,” she paused and thought some more, and then spoke again, “Also the records of the children lost, but if memory serve me correctly, then it is Langport you truly need to visit, as the old rectory was reported to be in part the house seen at Poundbury Hill, and the Priest there took serious interest as many children from his Parish were going missing, and he started offering shelter in his home, as a refuge in that the land was blessed and been Holy ground,” she said.
Jenny picked up the digital recorder Liza had loaned her, it was so much better and quicker than using pencil and paper. They parted with Christine agreeing to collect all she could while Jenny agreed to contact Alan and Chris who now were the Priest and curate of the church. From the Tea Room they made their separate ways and word started spreading about Liza’s incident and of Jenny seeking Christine’s help.
Like any small community Poundbury held the usual groups who were interested in various things, that said the history of both Poundbury and Langport held a certain fascination, and the local historian and her members took a keen interest, also been able to pull up volumes of old diaries and data of Poundbury’s past members now deceased, but in whose families donated such material to the historical society. Incredibly one family in particulars history went as far back as into the early 1680s, and having been large land owners they had kept detailed records as well as numerous diaries.
Within days material started to arrive for Lisa to investigate and was given on loan so she could see if using her skills as a detective, she was able to resolve this ancient of mysteries. Christine Murdock had found two old archived tied by string, but tea per was damp and great care was required to preserve the material, yet something in the back of her mind told her there was once a book…, no a collection of old diaries from one of the early Priests from Langport, he had retired to Poundbury and upon his death his widow donated the diaries, and it was Christine who received them along with old clothing and other items.
Looking back into her memory Christine tried to remember where she had stored them, two days later she remembered, she had been living with her mother, as her father had only recently died, and she stored them in the loft, as the funeral and the death had occupied their time. Her father had held a small life insurance policy and it was enough to enable then to rent out there old home and buy a better property not so near to the road. There original home had been one of a set of old cottages now opposite the antique shop in the High Street, it was now unoccupied along with three or four others lying dormant.
Later after the Library closed Christine went to her old home and opened the door, the first time in over twenty years, it was damp and small, but had been a good home in its day, but now it needed updating. She remembered her father had created an unseen entrance into the loft, having divided an upstairs room, and built a stairway into the loft, but he had placed a huge old mahogany double wardrobe by the entrance so he could store his valuables in case of robbery. Amazingly the old wardrobe was still there and the entrance had lain undiscovered. Opening the door she ventured inside and found the secret latch and the back panel swung open.
Fumbling for the light switch she switched it on and then made her way up the stairs, the loft was dusty and cobwebs were everywhere. She smiled seen her old wooden rocking horse and various toys, plus masses of moth eaten material and various other items. In time she found the old light brown leather suitcase and upon opening it inside were various item and neatly tied together with old string were the hand written diaries, also she found a silver cross and other church related material.
When she placed the items back into the old case she reminisced about her child hood and looked through various items once belonging to her father, finding also an old journal or diary of his which she never knew he had kept. Deciding to call into the antique shop to see if they were interested in the toys and other items, she carried the case and her father’s journal and made her way down stairs and into the old high street. As Liza’s home was only minutes away Christine took the old leather case to her door and Liza let her in.
Together they sat talking and Christine shared her memories of tales she herself had heard when she was a child. “I had a friend Justin Thomas who worked on the milk round, he delivered the milk with his father also named Justin Thomas, and they had ventured down Poundbury Hill, my friend was ten years old and that morning it was early just before 05.00am. They divided up the hill between then with his father delivery orders to the right side and Justine my friend doing the left side,” she paused and tears flowed from her eyes,
Liza could see this was upsetting Christine. “I have not thought of this in over sixty years,” she said, and then wiping her yes she took a drink of tea and then continued talking. That morning a fog appeared from nowhere and there was a scream, as Mr Thomas was returning to his horse and cart, he saw a young child running past him…, well he actually said through him, and it made him turn ice cold, then he heard what he thought was his son screaming and suddenly the fog lifted and his son was never found again.”
Liza listened in shock at what she had just been told. “What happened,” she enquired. Christine wiped another tear away, “The police refused to accept Mr Thomas explanation and arrested him for murdering his son, only there was never a body found and he died of heart failure while in prison awaiting trial,” responded Christine. “Anyway thank you for the Tea but I really must be going now, as I need to call into the antique shop and see if they are interested in a few old items, you can keep the old diaries I hope you find what you are looking for.” At that she got up and they parted ways.
Liza watched her as she slowly made her way back towards the High Street, then closing the door she walked over to the batch of old diaries and sat down to start reading. Six hours later there was another knock on her front door and then in walked Jenny. Liza looked up and smiled until she saw the expression upon her friends face. “What is wrong,” enquired Liza, Jenny grimly looked at her friend. “It’s Christine…, she…, she went to the antique shop and the owner went across the road with her to look at some items, only upon entering the concealed loft, the antique owner said the area went ice cold and he heard voices, Christine was in front of him and she screamed Father and then died, the police think it was a heart attack,” she said.
Liza blinked and then almost fell from shock, only hours earlier she had been sitting in her home talking, and now…, now she was dead. Jenny spoke, “Apparently the doctor thinks the stairs were too much for her and her heart just gave out, but they will find out for sure upon the autopsy.” Lisa just looked at Jenny and then got up and made a pot of tea and brought in some biscuits. Jenny took the tray from her friend and placed it upon a foot stool while they both sat and poured a mug of tea each and quietly ate some biscuits. Jenny spoke next, I suppose we should pray for her and thank the Lord for her life, and she was after all over a hundred.” Lisa smiled, “She was a lovely kind soul and even walked here and brought me old parish records and this morning she was here gifting me some old diaries,” she said.
Jenny looked at the stack of old books and documents besides Lisa’s chair, “Are those them,” she enquired. Lisa looked to see what Jenny was referring about and upon seeing where she was looking nodded her head indicating yes, as she swallowed the remains of a biscuit and washed it down with a drink of tea. “Sorry you caught me eating a biscuit,” said Lisa. “Yes those are the old archives from the Library and behind them is a stack of old diaries apparently belonging to a priest from Langport,” she said. Jenny looked amazed at the sheer volume of documents.
Looking at Liza she grinned and spoke, “it will take you years to go through all that,” Liza laughed, “Oh I have over three times this people just keep giving me volumes of data, “ she replied. “If I’m not mistaken most of it will be useless and about the parish etc. but hopefully some will hold important records, it’s just a matter of finding it,” said Lisa.
Jenny looked at her, “Would you accept some help, I would be no good at police work, but I could section out all relevant information so you could put aside the rest,” Jenny said. Lisa smiled “Thanks Jenny you’re a star, but first we need to scan it all into a computer so we can preserve what we have and from there we can start building files and collating what goes where, it’s a laborious start but gets more interesting as we go forward,” Lisa said.