The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

Daeth Y Nos Yn Gylfym

Six o'clock, 3rd April 1999
Bar room of the Llyn y Ddraig hotel, Bala.

A pretty girl of about eighteen comes into the room and stops in the doorway. She's balancing a pair of trays across her arms and Guy jumps up to help her. As the others are stirring, Dexter lays his hand on Nathan's arm.

"Listen, Garston," he says, "it would be great if you made a little more effort to get along with everyone - and if that means a little passive smoking then so be it." He smiles but his voice has a cold edge to it and Nathan scowls immediately.

"Do you know just how many cases of cancer have been linked to passive smoking over the past few years?" he says, raising his voice so Heather can hear. "It's not just their own bodies that they're destroying, you know, they're poisoning the rest of us too and just because they're too weak-willed to give it up."

"I am trying to give it up," Heather snaps, cutting him off mid-tirade.

There is an awkward silence, broken when Mike clears his throat. "Well then, you'll be wanting to see your rooms. Who's sleeping with who?"

Dexter turns around. "I'm not fussy. It's just a pity the two ladies have decided to bunk together." He winks as he says it, and laughs, taking the offence out of his words. He stands up, leaving Nathan alone and joins Guy and Rhiannon at the door. Guy is talking about his home in Rhodesia and Rhiannon's listening politely if without much interest.

"I'm not sleeping with anyone who snore or has foot odour," Nathan announces loudly. No one answers. He gets up stiffly. "Well I'll just take the one with the best view in the morning," he grumbles.

The group go upstairs, Judith and Heather going into the first room and Donovan following Dexter into the next. Guy glances at Nathan resignedly. "Looks like it's you and me then, pal."

Lady Judith perches on the edge of her bed and flicks through the stack of tourist brochures while Heather begins unpacking, throwing out T shirts, soap and towels into one jumbled heap. Judith clicks her tongue and turns another page. "Most of this is general tourist information," she says. "Local attractions and so on."

Heather shrugs. "What did you expect? The legend of Teggie handed to us on a plate? You'll only find that sort of stuff in a library."

"Which is 57 High Street," Judith announces triumphantly. "It says so here." She lays the brochure aside, marking the page, and unclips the silver buckles of her dark grey leather suitcase. "I'm going to unpack and then I'll talk to Mike I think."

Heather watches her a while then gets up and slips out unnoticed.

Donovan shivers convulsively. "They never told me Wales was going to be cold," he complains. "All I've got is lycra. I'm going to freeze."

Dexter grins and tosses him a black Elvis sweatshirt. "Here, borrow this for now. I've got plenty." Donovan eyes it dubiously. It looks large, even for him it's large and the cuffs frayed and stretched. But, for now warmth triumphs over fashion. He puts it on, glances at his reflection in the mirror on the door and stoops to check under both beds.

"What are you looking for?" Dexter asks. "Mice?"

Donovan shakes his head. "Aliens. The Klingons get everywhere, you know."

In the last room, Guy unpacks quickly and in silence. When Nathan has gone out he takes out a packet of cigarettes and lights one. He smokes it slowly, blowing the smoke up against the closed window.

Lady Judith is the last to come downstairs. She has changed for dinner, into a slim-fitting dark blue dress and a single gold chain. She looks around the bar room, sees Heather and Guy sitting in one corner together, an ashtray on the table between them, and Donovan attempting to chat up three girls at once at a neighbouring table. Judith hesitates a moment then walks across to where Dexter and Nathan are talking to Mike Gaskin.

"A Welsh phrase book?" Mike says in response to her question. "Sure, I can recommend you one. Nathan here was just asking the same thing."

"Maybe we could learn a little together," Nathan suggests. His smile is warm enough to bring blood rushing to Judith's cheeks. She looks at him suspiciously, waiting for the sarcasm, but it doesn't come. It seems that, for once, Nathan is completely genuine.

"Mike was just telling us about Teggie," Dexter puts in. "Those pictures are genuine, you were saying?"

Mike nods enthusiastically. "They certainly are. Taken by people who've stayed here one time and another. All of them the genuine article. A bit blurred, but then you can't get Teggie to stay still for very long."

"Have you ever seen her yourself?" Judith asks.

"No, more's the pity. Give my right arm to, mind. This hotel... Llyn y Ddraig means 'lake of the dragon' you know. Not that I'm saying Teggie's a dragon, but who knows what she is? There's some people round here reckon she's magic somehow, and some say she's nowt but a myth. Me, I think there's got to be something there for the myth to have grown. Now, if I give you folk a menu each, will you order when you're ready?"

The 'restaurant' is the room adjacent to the bar, several tables set out in two rows, all of them empty except for the one the group have taken.

Heather eats one-handed, holding a booklet from the diving school in her other hand, her gaze flicking from the glossy pages to the faces of the others and back again as the conversation ebbs and flows. There are various Scuba courses on offer, she reads, ranging from complete beginners to advanced. All the instructors have at least three years training behind them and the courses are tailored to each individual. There are several pages on safety as well as whole sections of advertisements for equipment suppliers.

"Nice to see a black man with some appreciation of real music," Nathan says loudly, eyeing Dexter's T shirt. "I always thought rap should be spelt with a silent 'c' myself." He watches at Dexter expectantly and when he doesn't react, he smiles. "Still it's good to see Elvis is losing some weight now," he continues, his tone more friendly. "What brings you to the wilds of Wales, then?"

"Me?" Dexter answers through a mouthful of steak and flaky pastry. "One thing and another. My parents moved over here - to Britain that is - when I was a kid. They're both dead now." His face clouds a moment as he remembers the circumstances, never fully explained, then he smiles again. "Anyway, I started my Elvis routine a while back and, who knows, the King might still be out there somewhere!"

Heather looks up. "You really impersonate Elvis. In front of other people..."

"Sure thing, honey. Here." He hands her a piece of paper and on an after thought gives everyone else one too. [enclosed - ed.] "Handbills," he explains. "You never know when you might need them." He looks at Nathan and smiles broadly. "I'd say Elvis is doing pretty well for himself. What about you lot? What made you all join this lark?"

"There's got to be something out there," Heather mutters. The others all nod agreement. Donovan reaches past her for the sauce bottle. He has taken off his borrowed sweatshirt and he turns his arm casually so his muscles flex in exactly the right way. Heather's eyes are back on her book - desperately trying not to look, Donovan thinks. He does a couple more flexes until Nathan catches his eye and frowns.

"Your mother certainly packed your lunch-box well," he says acidly. "What happened to your head? It looks like you're being attacked by a crispy chargrilled octopus. Are those Dreadlocks?" His gaze travels lower. "I bet that navel stud caused some fun with the metal detectors at the airport."

Donovan simply grins, incapable of taking offence and stands up. "Where were you when they were handing out manners? Another drink anyone? I'll give Mike a shout."

Nathan's voice follows him across the room. "I bet you'll be hiring one of those bloody jet skis and scaring all the wildlife off the lake next."

"I asked Mike about the disappearances," Guy says quickly changing the subject. "He said it's the first time he can remember anything like it happening. I suppose he could be lying but I doubt it. He seemed open enough when I was talking to him. You spoke to him, Nathan, what did you think?"

"Seems all right, I suppose. In any case he said there's someone called Robert Jones who does walking tours around the lake. It'll be worth talking to him."

"And he told us where Mark Richardson is staying," Dexter adds, grinning suddenly at the memory. "In fact, what he said was the bloke has been causing so much trouble with his reporting that anyone in the village could point you in his direction. He's staying at the Goronwy Hotel which is about half mile up the road from here. We can walk it." He looks around the table, deliberately avoiding Nathan's gaze. "What other ideas have people got? Judy?"

Lady Judith jumps, startled. "I've got something that might help." She pulls a leaflet out of her bag and passes it to Heather on her left.

'The Empty Chair,' Heather reads, putting down her diving school book for the moment. 'Offering support and advice to the families of missing people.' the leaflet goes on to explain that the families of missing people - particularly those who have vanished mysteriously - are in special need of support. Not knowing whether they're loved ones are alive or dead, always hoping for the best, always fearing the worst. The charity offers advice and counselling for such people and has links with other organisations that try to trace missing people.

"Why don't we go and speak to the minister here?" Judith suggests. "There must be a local church. I can show him a leaflet and say we'd like to help the Morgan family. He might be able to put us in touch with them."

"Good idea," Nathan agrees readily, friendly again as if his exchange with Donovan had never happened. "I'll come with you. Tomorrow, if you like, once I've talked to this Robert chap."

When they finish eating, Dexter stands up first. "Well, that's been a great feed. Who wants to come on a pub crawl to wash it all down?"

"A pub crawl?" Lady Judith looks doubtful but Guy laughs approvingly. "Great idea. Lets go."

Four pubs later they are in the bar room of the Goronwy Hotel. Donovan goes straight to the bar. "Four beers, a vodka martini and a gin and tonic," he says. "By the way, does anyone know where Mark Richardson is?"

The small area around him goes suddenly, coldly silent. On one side, two men who were speaking in English switch to Welsh. The barman shakes his head. "How should I know? He only stays here, he's not tied to us by elastic. Three beers was it?"

"Four. You can't tell me what he looks like, then?"

"Looks like any bloody nosy Englishman. Enjoy your drinks." He says it as if he hopes the thick, sticky-looking beer will choke them.

Heather, trying to eavesdrop quietly, is having an equal lack of success. A lot of people are talking in Welsh and others invariably change to Welsh when they notice her listening.

Guy accepts his drink, flicking his hair out of his eyes for the fifth time and Nathan frowns. "That habit is extremely irritating, you know. Why don't you give the rest of the human race a break and get a decent haircut in the morning. Or will you be going for a jog up Snowdon?"

"Now that's an idea." Donovan's eyes light up.

"...mae gormod o'r Sais, dyma'r problem," Heather hears. And then, "Fallai bod Teggie eu bwyta nhw." She moves closer at the mention of Teggie but the two women glare at her and stop talking altogether.

Dexter has been handing out his handbills to anyone who'll accept one. He gets into conversation with one man then shrugs and comes back to join the group, sitting down and lighting a cigarette. "Some people wouldn't know good music if it jumped up and bit them on the nose," he says good-naturedly. He blows smoke in Nathan's direction, takes his beer and drains the glass in two swallows. Lady Judith watches him nervously. His eyes seem a little too bright and when he makes his way back to the bar he stumbles once.

"How much has he had to drink?" Judith wonders.

"One less than he's going to have in a minute by the look of it," Heather says.

She's right. "I'll have another one, mate, and get something for these people as well," Dexter tells the barman, waving his arm expansively. He digs in his pocket for money and looks around. "You don't know anything about Mark Richardson, then. How about Masonic lodges. Do you have one of those around here?"

Out on the pavement, Nathan turns on him. "What did you have to say that for?"

Dexter smiles vaguely. "How was I to know they'd chuck us out just for asking?"

"Does anyone have any ideas what the goat's blood is for?" Judith asks. Wrapping her coat around her shoulder, she begins to walk. The look on her face says that she'd rather not know what people did with goat's blood.

Back at the hotel, Nathan is making a hurried call on his mobile phone. "James, a problem for you. I want you to check up disappearances in North Wales, especially two - Gwyneth Morgan and Anthony Barnard, who've gone missing from Bala." A pause. "No, Barnard's an American. See what you can find out and get back to me via my mobile, will you? Thanks."

He goes to his room whistling softly, sure that his old friend, James Wilson of the Metropolitan Police, will turn up something the press reporters don't know.

It is seven o'clock in the morning and thin wisps of a pale, green mist are rising off the surface of Lake Bala. The only sound is the click and whir of Nathan's camera and Lady Judith's frightened whisper.

"The Green Mist..." She moves closer to Guy for protection. "Do you think it could be aliens? Spaceship lights turning it a funny colour or something."

Heather sniffs scornfully. "I thought you might have a sensible idea. Surely you don't believe in aliens."

"I do," puts in Donovan. "Sharon Stone was only saying to me the other day..." no one is listening. They are all watching the mist.

It comes off the lake in folds as if the water is breathing. Deep green at the surface of the water it fades quickly, becoming almost white again before it dissipates to be replaced by another fold of it. Donovan eyes the lake thoughtfully.

"Maybe if we waded in," he suggests.

Heather shakes her head. "Best to wait for the Scuba lessons for that."

"If there is something in the water causing it, that is," Guy adds.

They stand there until the sun has risen fully and the mist turns pure white under the brighter light. Slowly, they walk back to the hotel for breakfast.

"Been Teggie hunting?" Mike greets them cheerily, noting Nathan's camera. "If you get a shot of her you will let me have a copy, won't you?"

Over a breakfast of bacon, wild mushroom (which Judith studies individually with great interest) and ducks' eggs, plans are made. Guy finds himself in great demand, with Judith, Donovan and Dexter all wanting his company. He declares himself flattered and elects to join Dexter in trying to locate Mark Richardson, the reporter, arranging to meet back at the hotel for lunch. "That's unless you're not still busy investigating," he adds. "If anyone's not here by two we'll assume they're not coming."

Heather and Donovan find themselves together, heading for the diving school on the lakeside. The place is small - basically a shop with extra storage rooms behind for equipment. But the sole instructor who is present turns out to be friendly, quite willing to spend some time talking.

"Hi," he greets them. "My name's Paul. Your course starts tomorrow morning, right?" His accent is very definitely English.

"That's right." Heather runs her fingers along the cool length of an air tank. "I've never done any diving before," she confides. "What's it like?"

"Great. You'll love it. We'll be starting slowly as you're all beginners - on the edges of the lake where you won't be out of your depth, and we move on from there. See that area out there?" He turns to the window and points. Looking through, Heather can see a square of water roped off with floating buoys. "We stay in that area for starters," Paul tells her. "Then, at the end of the course, if you're feeling confident - and if I think you're up to it - you can go out into the rest of the lake." He turns to frown at Donovan who is trying on a breathing mask. "We do take safety very seriously," he adds sternly. "We haven't had an accident yet, and I don't intend one to happen this season either."

Donovan puts the masks back guiltily. "As long as the monster doesn't eat us I guess we'll be okay," he says.

Paul frowns. "They've not been spreading that rumour again, have they?"

"Who?" Donovan asks.

His frown deepens, creasing the skin between his dark eyes. "The Welsh language movement. Cymdeithas something-or-other. You know, the ones who burn holiday cottages and stuff."

Donovan looks puzzled but Heather nods. "I've heard of them. I didn't know they were still a problem."

"They are if you try to make a living out of tourists," he shoots back. He flushes slightly. "Sorry, I didn't mean I'm only after your money. It's mainly the holiday-makers who want to learn diving, that's all. And the Movement are a nuisance, trying to frighten people off." He runs his hand through his hair and sighs. "Look, if anyone tries to tell you the lake's dangerous, don't believe them, that's all. Now, shall I give you a sneak preview of the equipment?"

The vicar scratches his head when Judith has finished explaining about the Empty Chair charity.

"I dare say you mean well," he says slowly. "But sometimes people don't appreciate outside help, if you get my meaning."

Judith nods earnestly. "Oh I understand completely, Reverend. I would simply like people to know the opportunity is there to talk if they feel the need - just as the opportunity to pray is," she adds hopefully.

The vicar smiles slightly and stands up. The church is dark, the sunlight splintering into uneven patches of colour on the floor as it comes through the arched stained glass windows above the altar. The pews, the lower parts of the walls and the floor seem to be made out of the same dark wood and Judith shivers. It's like sitting in a coffin, she thinks. The thick silence makes it difficult to breathe.

Nathan rescues her. "According to the newspaper reports, these two disappearances were mysterious, to say the least," he says. "I saw one report that the monster of the lake had eaten them both. And there was a hint that witchcraft could be involved as well, wasn't there Judith?"

"Witchcraft?" The vicar's face seems to turn a little paler - or maybe it is just a trick of the shadows. He holds his robe close around him. "No, there's none of that here now. All dead and gone and good riddance to them." He draws in a sharp breath, pulling himself up to his full height. "Would it be any help to you if I told you the missing woman's husband works in the main post office in town. Halfway up the high street, opposite Lloyds bank. If you want to talk to him you should go there - though personally I'd advise against it. He'll probably not take kindly to your visit."

"You did well," Nathan says approvingly as the two of them leave the church.

Judith stops, blinking in the sudden glare of sunlight. "Do you really think so?" She sounds pleased. "My husband always used to say..." She breaks off.

"Your husband?" Nathan prompts, surprisingly gently.

"He's dead now, God rest him." She takes out a handkerchief - more out of habit than because she needs it, it seems, because she remains dry-eyed and after a moment she puts it back in her bag and forces a smile. "Well, it's over now," she says to no one in particular.

Nathan offers her his arm as they walk along the uneven stone path. "I'm sorry," he offers, thinking of his own aunt whose death has allowed him his present lifestyle. He sighs. "These things are hard to bear, aren't they?"

"I must say it's good to see some friendly faces." Mark Richardson, reporter for the Telegraph and cause - it would seem - of half the bad feeling in the town - sits back in his hotel armchair and smiles at Guy and Dexter. "Now, having established you're not from a rival paper, what can I do for you?"

"An exchange of information," Guy says frankly. "We've been asked to find out about Gwyneth Morgan and Anthony Barnard. As you know so much about the cases, you seem to be the person to start with."

"And in return?"

"In return..." Guy lowers his voice. "I've got a bit of dirt on the hotel owner here, should go down well with your paper."

"And we'd be willing to pool information if we find out anything else," Dexter adds. "Have a handbill, by the way."

Mark reads it as if he doesn't quite believe it. "All right," says at last. "It's a deal.

"Gwyneth Morgan is a local girl," he begins, pausing to pour himself a drink. "A local woman, I should say. In her twenties and married to Bryn. Parents are Hywel and Mair Owen. Hywel's respected around here, apparently, though I don't know why. The man's as cold as a fish. Anyway, Barnard leaves one afternoon and Gwyneth vanishes the next night. She's the important one - Barnard could have just moved on and not have sent for his stuff yet, though the police don't think so."

"Do you think there's a connection?" Guy asks.

Mark shrugs. "I don't know. I hope so, it makes for a great story. One thing I do know is that Barnard was in this area about a year ago. Not staying in Bala then, but he could well have come by here." He sits forward. "Listen, if you're really into this, I could always do with an extra pair of legs, so to speak, and the paper would pay well for any information. How about it? You do some poking around for me and I'll tell you what I know."

The morning passes by. Heather and Donovan leave the diving school and part, Heather heading in the direction of the library, Donovan wandering along the single street that is the town centre. He comes out of a sports shop wearing a scarlet fleece tracksuit over his lycra and jogs as far as a newsagents.

"Anthony Barnard?" the girl behind the counter repeats stupidly. She can't quite keep her gaze away from Donovan's exposed midriff.

"Yeah, that's right. He's a friend of mine. Said he'd be staying in the area and now I find he's disappeared. Any idea where he was staying?"

She blinks a few time. "I think..." but then a voice calls to her sharply from the back of the shop and she turns away, flushing. "Sorry, we're not allowed to talk about our customers, even if I did remember him. And I don't."

Nathan drops Lady Judith back to the hotel to meet Guy and carries on back into the town for his appointment with Robert Jones. He finds the man waiting outside the tourist information office. A poster on the wall declares - 'Walking Tours of Lake Bala, ask inside for details.' Other posters advertise local restaurants, the diving school and a local eisteddfod coming up soon.

"Robert?" Nathan asks.

"Rhobat," he replies with slight emphasis. "You're the one staying at Mike's place, yes?" He doesn't wait for an answer but starts walking. "Come on then."

At the Llyn y Ddraig, the rest of the group make plans for the afternoon while Dexter slips off to make a phone call back to his home town of Aberdeen.

"University zoology department," he says.

He talks to a few old colleagues, outlines what he wants and waits impatiently for the laughter to subside. "All I want to know," he says heavily, "is if there is such a creature, what could it be. In theory. You can call me back here." He hangs up and stands, frowning at the receiver for a moment before going to ask Mike for a map of the area.

After a hour of walking Nathan has gained little except for the beginnings of a few blisters. The rowing boats are owned by a separate company, he finds out, and have to be hired from them so there's no way of examining them surreptitiously. And when he mentions Teggie, Rhobat laughs.

"Never seen her myself, mate. Though I suppose a picture of her will be worth a hundred of birds."

Neither, later, does the photographic shop Rhobat points out provide any clues. There are two teenage girls on duty and they stare and giggle when Nathan comes in. He buys three rolls of film and picks up an envelope for developing. "I bet you see loads of views of the lake," he says, putting on his best friendly voice. "Ever seen Teggie turn up in someone's holiday snaps?"

The girls look at each other and back at Nathan. "We're only in part time," one says. "We don't look at people's photos, they go straight into envelopes. Are you staying here long?"

"A week." He excuses himself and leaves.

Heather is in the library. There are several books of folklore. The librarian tells her she can't take any out but she's welcome to photocopy a few pages so she sets to work. When she asks about internet access or a cybercafe, the librarian laughs. "The nearest what? In Cardiff probably, my love. We don't have all that sort of thing this end of the country." She goes away chuckling, leaving Heather to go through the books.

The Legend of Llyn Tegid

The story has it that a monster once terrorised a village in north Wales. Eventually the people there decided something had to be done. They persuaded a young girl to go to the edge of the lake where the monster lived and to sit and sing. As she did so, the creature came out of the water to listen and as she sang and sang, slowly the great crusted eyelids closed and it slept. The moment the villagers saw the monster was asleep they fell on it and bound it fast with nets and ropes. For some reason - maybe some feeling of compassion for life, even life as monstrous as this - they didn't kill it. Instead they dragged it away from their village over fields and hills and mountains until they came to the shore of Llyn Tegid - Lake Bala. There they released the creature and stood and watched as it swam into deep water and was lost to sight. The villagers returned to their homes. As for the monster, there are people still who say it is living at the bottom of the lake to this very day.

The Green Mist

There is a story that at the beginning of spring the mist turns greens and rolls in off the fields and the water, covering the village. In the old days people had their own ways of welcoming it, strange words, and bread and salt crumbled upon the earth. One year, a girl lay dying and as she lay she prayed that she might live to see the mist bring the spring, "for maybe then the sight of the Green will make me well and even if I live only as long as the cowslips at the garden gate I'll be content with that."

The next day brought the mist. The girl was carried to the garden gate and there she crumbled bread and salt and whispered the strange old words of welcoming to the spring. And it happened that from that day she grew stronger and beautiful and strange until the cowslips bloomed by her gate. She lived until, one day, a boy passed by the gate and stopped to chat. He picked a cowslip, unthinking, and gave it to her, laughing, but she laughed not. She let out a wild cry and ran into the house and there she lay on her bad, curled up and clutching the fading flower to her breast. The next day she was dead.

Other books include a copy of the Mabinogion in Welsh and English - a collection of folklore too long to do any more than skim through - two modern collections, and a collection of Teggie 'sightings' lifted from local papers. Most of them include blurred photographs and statements from locals or tourists swearing that they saw something 'long and dark' moving on the water.

Donovan strolls on down the road, arms swinging with exactly the right motion to give him the 'casual but terribly athletic' look. He is revelling in the admiring glances he must be attracting, although he still glances behind nervously from time to time. You never can be too careful, not even in Wales. He passes a group of girls standing at the corner of the road and smiles and waves at them. One of them waves back and he practically glows at her.

A car pulls up beside him. "I'm going to ask about Anthony Barnard," Nathan calls. "Do you want to come?"

Donovan hesitates, looks back to the girls but their attention has drifted. He grins and gets into the car.

They drive to a garage together and Donovan waits while Nathan talks about cars and mechanical problems before getting onto the subject of the American.

"What I'd really like to own is one of those huge AC Cobra jobs, all black and chrome, or maybe one of the American motors," he says, turning to face the mechanic. "I don't suppose you see many of those here, do you? But then, you wouldn't get many foreigners, either."

The mechanic chews his lip. "You'd be surprised. This area is getting quite popular now. But the foreigners never bring their cars so, no, we don't see many. The last one must have been... Must have been that bloke who disappeared," he finishes. "He was American, the paper said."

"I say," Dexter calls as a figure looms up on the other side of the field. "I think I've got myself lost. Can you help?" He straightens up, his knees cracking, and casts another glance around the farm. He can see several buildings to his right, which he has already decided must be the main farm buildings and the muted low of cattle comes whenever the wind changes in his direction. The wind itself smells sweet, of grass and manure. Dexter shifts his feet in the soil, trying to ignore how much they are aching. Even though he got a bus part way up here it has still be a hell of a walk. He never realised how big Welsh farms could be.

The figure draws closer and Dexter sees that it is a man, dressed in old, ripped trousers and jersey.

"I'd say you're lost," the man calls out. "You're on private land." His voice though, is friendly, and when he comes close enough Dexter sees that he is smiling. He smiles back in relief.

"I'm staying at the Llyn y Ddraig. Thought I'd take a walk around the area and I completely forgot where the path is."

The farmer stares at him hard. "If you've come from Llyn y Ddraig you're well out of your way. It's miles that way." He points vaguely then appears to take pity on the daft tourist standing in front of him. He smiles. "If you can bear another ten minutes walking there's a phone at the farmhouse. You can ring a taxi to come and collect you."

Meanwhile, Judith and Guy are walking together towards the post office, Judith smiling determinedly all the way.

"It'll be fine," Guy reassures her, "after all, what can a man do to us, especially in a busy shop?"

They reach the place and go in.

The man standing at the small counter must be Bryn Morgan, Guy guesses. He puts his hand on Judith's and they wait while an old lady with a shopping trolley buys stamps and Sellotape and goes out. Then they approach.

Judith clears her throat prettily. "Ah, Mr Morgan?" she enquires.

The man scowls at her. "What if I am?"

She recovers herself and continues. "I represent a charity that helps people in your situation. You know, people with friends or relatives that have suddenly disappeared." She rifles through her bag. "I have a leaflet."

"You can keep it," Bryn Morgan says abruptly. His eyes narrow dangerously. "I don't need do-gooders here. I'll find my wife soon enough."

"Maybe you will," Guy agrees quietly, "but maybe you won't. Isn't it worth trying everything that's open to you?"

"I am trying everything." Bryn explodes into anger with such a force that Judith gasps and takes a step backwards. "We're doing everything we can, but you people can't accept that, can you? We don't need you lot coming in telling us how to run things."

"No, but -"

He doesn't give Judith time to finish. "But nothing. This is my shop and I want you out of it. Now! And take that leaflet with you."

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