He was visibly shaken, but he finally realised that Billy was thanking him for all what he’d done by his efforts at bringing a lifelong mystery to a close. If he hadn’t been somehow led to the house to buy and renovate it, the secret may have remained a mystery for many more years to come, and maybe forever. And the ghosts that lived within it would have remained there unable to rest in peace. He had been responsible, along with Lucy, for uncovering an age-long crime. When Billy made the decision to give him the keys that day, he must have decided it was time.

But the crime should have been solved all those years ago, so that the perpetrators could have been caught and punished. Billy could have been reunited with his doting mother and therefore have given a very sad story a happy ending. At the same time, Beryl might never have been able to subject her mother to the cruelty and treachery bestowed upon her by her only daughter. But for whatever reason, it hadn’t to be. There was no turning back of events, things happen for a reason, but that was for someone else to justify, Anton certainly couldn’t.

He decided to walk up the lane to take a look at the graveyard to see if he could find Billy’s resting place and to pay his respects, albeit years too late. He opened the small latch gate which struggled and groaned as he pushed it, probably due to lack of use. He wandered round to the side of the church, the side overlooking Juniper, and there it was in a corner. Just as the landlord had said, a small stone marked Billy’s grave.

He stood and reflected for a while. All of the past months’ events were beyond his understanding and he may never be able to work it out. But he’d grown fond of the old man – or fond of his memory whichever was most appropriate. Because he knew now that when he first set eyes on Billy he had somehow managed to slip into a time-warp with him, which allowed him to experience a glimpse into the past. He was unlikely to ever work out how he obtained the keys from someone who was buried in the earth just below his feet; but some unknown force far beyond the reach of human comprehension, had somehow lured him into a situation for which he was destined. And who was he to question a higher intelligence than his own.

He walked away after saying a quiet goodbye to Billy, but part way down the lane something compelled him to look back. In the distance he saw the shadowy outline of a woman kneeling at the grave. She seemed to look up and wave to him, and then she was gone. He turned away and kept on walking, convinced his eyes had deceived him and he cast it out of his mind.

As he strolled back down the lane, the rain came on and the skies took on a grey hue. He clutched at his Granddad’s old cardie which he was wearing, and pulled it tightly round his body to keep him warm whilst he made his way to the pub car park and his old camper van.

He knew he wouldn’t be passing through Judge Fields again, unless one day they decided to take that old top road to their favourite village after all; who knows. Right now he had no plans to return.

He cast his mind back to Billy, and the shadowy image at his graveside, but he had no knowledge or understanding of these things. They had always intended to walk round the old graveyard and browse through the ancient headstones, but somehow the opportunity had never arisen. And all the times that he had looked for signs of the pub opening, so that he could call in and speak to the old man once more, little did he know, or even guess, that his name was Billy and he was lying in the church graveyard, a smooth round stone marking his grave and pointing in the direction of Juniper. Maybe, after all, the shadowy image at the graveside could be that of his mother, Magdalena. He would never know of course, and better to leave the past alone and cast his mind to the future.

His long stride soon turned into a run as he hurried back to the shelter of his old camper van and jumped in out of the rain. He took one last look at the old pub and then drove away out of the car park, out of the hamlet of Judge Fields, and onto the main road which would take him back home to where he belonged with Lucy.


At the graveside

The earth grows rich above your face the flowers bloom each year

And down within that earth-filled space you are so still my dear

So many words were left unsaid so many things undone

So many thoughts within my head were meant for you alone

And as my tears refresh the soil that covers you whilst you sleep

My last sweet words
I love you
are yours alone to keep.

The end

Author’s note:

Thank you for choosing to purchase this book, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

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If you have enjoyed this book, you may also wish to take a look at ‘The Appointment’, which is now available on Amazon as a kindle version and paperback.

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Thank you,

Sincerely yours,

Peppi Hilton

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