[This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]
COMA – Tuesday Late Afternoon
“Coma complications?” Not what I want to hear. “Still unconscious?”
The doctor is quick to clarify. “No, they’re awake but confused. It may not be worth you coming back in – at least not again today. I’ll tell your uniformed colleague to call you.”
“Can they talk? What have they said?” My tattoos stab me. I dread his reply.
“Nothing significant. They are rambling and can’t even remember their names and I would prefer that they are not pressured into remembering. My preliminary diagnosis is retrograde amnesia. They have both lost a substantial proportion of their declarative memory, especially their autobiographical recollections.”
He launches into a detailed description of how the brain functions. Enough for me to know they have post-traumatic brain injuries from a blow to the head. Concussion.
Unravelling their identities is my task. Heart beats quicken. My case, my challenge.
“Keep me informed of their condition, doctor. I’ll ring if I discover anything. We have created composite images from the photos that forensics took. Somebody will know who they are.”
Mobile off, I consider the best course. Calm the clamour of scenarios. Alone is best – or with Kama. She must wait.
Aberdaron is a small village although tourists swell the numbers, but someone might recognise our two men.
The church sits just above the beach and opposite are the pubs. One seems more frequented by the locals and I approach the bar.
“Myrica Gale,” I say in Welsh, hoping they stock the seasonal stout. I’m on-duty but who is going to report me.
The barman smiles and pours me a pint. “Perfect Welsh but not local. Nor a tourist. Journalist?”
I laugh. “Heddlu.”
His brows lift. “Not your average copper, more like a biker chick. Investigating the assaults?”
“I’m impressed, but publicans are a sharp lot. First, I need to identify them.” I call up the photos on my smart phone and show him. “Do you know them? Either of them?”
He shakes his head. “Never seen them before, and nobody seemed to know them when the bodies were found. I don’t think they were even tourists.”
Not what I want to hear, but there are no easy cases. That’s the challenge – the charge to my life.
“I also need to find a local boat builder – clinker boats.”
“Our Aberdaron beach boats, not many of those left. Even fewer builders. You’re best asking at the Porth y Swnt Visitor Centre – they have one of the boats there. And they might have a list of builders.”
With his directions, I find the centre and the clinker-built exhibit.
A guide approaches me.
“Beautiful boat,” she says in English.
I detect her lilt and reply in our mutual tongue. “Clinker built. She must be old. Are there many builders left?” I show her my warrant card.
Relief floods her face. “I expected you to be a tourist. Sorry. I’ve never met a police woman like you.” Her blushing face appeals, but it’s not attraction. “Over 100 years old and there are very few builders. Most of the boats are restored in Porth Meudwy, but this exhibit was restored at Felin Uchaf Educational Centre in Rhoshirwaun near Pwllheli.”
Stay focused. “And are the restoration techniques unchanged? I’m following a lead into boat building.” Attractions are dangerous. But one risk was worthwhile.
“Pretty much traditional. Best to ask the builders themselves, starting with Guto Thomas at Meudwy.”
The National Trust track to the cove is closed to the public vehicles but not to me or my motorbike. Clinker built lobster boats on trailers line one side near a single stone cottage. Beyond beside the sea are a couple of old Land Rovers and the tractors for launching the boats including the ferry to Bardsey Island.
I find a man working on a boat – he’s about forty, five foot six, black hair and wiry. Clean Celtic blue coveralls.
“Guto Thomas? I’m DC Anwyl,” My Welsh relaxes him. “The Visitors Centre said you might be able to help. I’m investigating the Aberdaron assaults and I need to learn about the Aberdaron boats. One of the men may have been building one.”
A long shot but my instinct – my tattoos – have never lied. Maybe they’re misleading if I misread them. Caution is for colleagues. But my head says careless kills.
His dark eyes read me. “Well. our traditional Aberdaron beach boat was clinker built, transom sterned and single masted, and under 15 feet in length so they could be handled by two men.” He pauses but I don’t curb his enthusiasm. “Each one was slightly different as they were built specifically for the individual fisherman who would be using them. We only restore them now…although there a few replicas. Not the real boat.”
Memorise the details. My tattoos cry ‘continue’.
“Do you all use traditional materials in the restoration? Pitch or tar for instance.”
“Most do, but some take short cuts – not that a layman would notice. I still use pitch over the caulking. Others use the modern alternatives. You suspect a builder was involved?”
“One of the victims might have been in contact with pitch.” I hand him my smartphone with the photos.
Guto studies the two guys. “These guys asked my advice as they wanted to rebuild an old lobster boat, one of them had bought.”
“Did they give their names or where they were from.”
“Not local but from the Llŷn – Nefyn area. They said they were… Ellis Evans and Vic Vaughn.”
Fairly common names but a valuable step forward.
“Did they come here more than once? When did you last see them?”
He glances at a chandler’s calendar. “Last week, on Monday. I showed them how to seal the hull with caulking and pitch.”
A sigh. Relief my tattoo hunch works.
P for Pitch. But no motive for the A for Assault – or A for Accident. Minimal evidence and confused victims. E for Evidence. C for Confusion.
PACE. Never waver. Dig deeper.
“Were they far enough advanced with the boat to try to launch at the weekend – before the storm?”
Guto shakes his head. “Impossible. They were slow workers. Enthusiastic but amateurs who might have ignored the storm warnings. But they said they had to go to Cardiff for a midweek deep-water diving course.”
Cardiff is almost 200 miles from Aberdaron. Did they go on the course?
As a wild swimmer, I know about the dangers of diving. Decompression?
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“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
William Congreve – The Mourning Bride