Mystery on the Moor – Joyce Janes

They were eating in the Knights Table an old travellers pub on the way back to the campsite.   It was their last meal out, tomorrow they would have their final bbq before packing up to go home.  Having basked in sunshine all week they were lucky because, as everyone kept telling them, this summer had been the worst for over 40 years.

Eating his meal Albie was not concentrating on the chatter of his family he was listening to the locals sitting along the bar.  He overheard talk, whispers about strange happenings on the moor.

‘I seen lights up there, heard screams, someone is living on the moor I tell you,’ insisted a wizened old man propped up in a corner.

‘Oh not that again,’ chuckled a tall man, ‘ere he goes, give him another pint then I’ll teke im ome.’

‘On Axe edge I seen um strange goin’s on.’

‘How long have you been telling us that,’ laughed others who had obviously heard this tale many times before.

‘Hush up now Albert you’ll be scaring my customers,’ it was the landlord, ‘there’s folk listening, pack it in.’

‘Albie, are you going to join in our conversation?’ mum interrupted his thoughts.

‘What,’ Albie dragged his attention back to the food and scooped a mouthful.

‘We are talking about what to do tomorrow it’s our last day,’ she said.

‘I know,’ said Albie, ‘I want to walk.’

‘I’m not going a walk we’ve done lots of walking mum it’s not fair.  I want to go into Buxton, I want to go to Pooles cavern, you said I could.  It’s not fair we always do what he wants,’ said a petulant voice.

Albie laughed which infuriated his sister even more.

‘Don’t want you to come anyway,’ he answered her.

‘That’s enough,’ dad told them and turning to his wife asked ‘’what would you like to do?’ then looking at the warring brother and sister, ‘whatever mum wants that is what we will do.’

Mum pulled a face ‘I don’t want any arguments, I want everyone to do what they would like.’

‘Great that’s settled then,’ Albie smiled ‘you can all go to the cavern and I will go walking.’

After much discussion it was agreed that, as he was 15, could map read, would have his mobile phone and was perfectly capable, Albie could go for a walk alone whilst they explored the cavern.

All that remained was for him to decide where he would like to walk and what time they would pick him up.

No decision was needed Albie knew exactly where he wanted to go.

The next morning saw him in jeans and tee shirt, striding along Axe Edge.  He was a bit disappointed, It wasn’t much of an edge at all just a hill, not one of the rocky gritstone outcrops he had come to expect in the Peak District.  Still the weather was perfect with sun, warmth and a clear blue sky, he could see for miles.

Albie wandered over Axe Edge and onto Axe moor.   The whole area must be barren and harsh in winter but today the moor was lifted by bright sunlight and a hint of purple heather.  In a week or so the area would be a mass of colour, Albie wished they could stay to see it.

He picked bilberries, watched red grouse and was even convinced he caught a glimpse of a short-eared owl.

At lunchtime he settled down to eat the sandwiches mum had prepared enjoying a view that made him feel as if the whole world was spread out in front of him.

It was then that a chill ran down his spine.

He decided he must be coming down with a cold it was a sweltering day no one even needs a jumper on a like this he thought.

The light was changing slowly at first, then faster as a threatening cloud seemed to appear from nowhere.

Albie looked around, the sky had been clear, crystal clear not five minutes ago but now a menacing grey cloud was advancing with some speed.  He shivered there was a real cold bite to the breeze which was fast becoming an icy wind.  Unsure of what to do and hoping it would soon blow over Albie stayed put.  He hunkered down against his rucksack and tried to shelter against this unexpected storm.

He was surprised to see two young girls about his own age walking along the edge.

As they passed he said hello, they ignored him, didn’t even acknowledge that he was there.

He blushed, embarrassed by their ignorance.  He rummaged in his bag as if he wasn’t bothered.

It seemed strange that on what had been such a lovely day they were dressed from head to foot in warm clothes and waterproofs.  Perhaps the weather was like that up here, unpredictable, he must look like a real idiot out walking so unprepared for the storm.

The sky grew darker, the rain worse, Albie couldn’t believe a day could change so dramatically.

The girls settled down right next to him giggling and chattering as if he didn’t exist, as if it were still the beautiful summers day he had been enjoying.

He was ready to move on, icy cold he could see a thick mist licking its way toward him up the edge.

He wondered whether to ring his mum and arrange to be collected but as he pulled the mobile out of his pocket he noticed the battery was fading.  How odd he had charged his phone overnight it couldn’t have run down already.  There was no signal either that was fine earlier he had checked it but now that too was showing nothing.

A tall man in a thick winter coat was walking steadily up the slope toward him.

Albie smiled but the man behaved as if he hadn’t seen the boy and continued the few yards to where the girls sat.

They both stopped talking as the man came to a standstill right in front of them.

Silent now the girls looked at him as he stared down on them.

Albie felt as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs. He knew something was going to happen, something bad.  He wanted to shout to the girls go, run, he opened his mouth but nothing came out.

Unable to move he watched as the man opened his coat, slowly pulled out an axe and with measured movements lifted it high in the air.

The desperate cry from the girl was silenced as the blade came down slicing into her neck.

The other girl screamed as stumbling and falling she ran down the slope into the mist.

The man appearing unconcerned watched her go then, as blood poured from the wound, he calmly pulled the axe away from the dying teenager.

With his long coat billowing behind the man turned and followed the girl who had escaped.

Stunned Albie, not thinking about the danger he might be in, rushed over to the girl.

He didn’t touch her he could see immediately that she was dead.

He grabbed his phone, still no signal, he threw it on the ground at the side of the girl.

The man vanished into the haze, Albie ran after him but it was useless he had gone, disappeared.

Shivering with cold and trembling with horror at what he had seen Albie wandered aimlessly.  As the mist began to rise he could just make out a figure in the valley, he was convinced it was a man dragging something toward a tumble down barn.

The rain stopped, the light changed as the cloud seemed to evaporate and the sky returned to the clear blue of the morning.

Albie knew he must go back, he must get help, the police, they had to find the man, save the other girl.

He ran then slowed, he felt sick, was shaking, this shouldn’t be happening.

There was his bag, his belongings scattered and his phone where he had left it, but there was nothing else.

No girl, no body, no blood, nothing to give any clue as to the event he had witnessed.

His knees buckled and he sank to the ground.  What was happening to him?  Legs trembling he got up, reached for the phone,  it was working now….7 missed calls. He rang mum.

‘Where are you?’ she asked ‘we’ve been trying to get you for ages.’

He examined the whole area but found nothing.  He grabbed his things and ran down to the road where he saw the welcome sight of his parents car.

Albie was in a terrible state, upset, wet through and raving about murder.  His parents couldn’t make any sense of what he was telling them.

He tried to explain everything that had happened but it sounded weird even to him.

His family had only been a couple of miles down the road and they assured him that the weather had been perfect all day, hot and sunny, they knew nothing of storms, clouds and wind.

His mum was convinced Albie had sunstroke after being out all day and had perhaps dreamt or imagined the events he told them about.

They returned to the campsite where she plied him with aspirin and water.  Later that afternoon they were so worried about their son that the family packed everything away to return home a day early.

By next morning Albie was not sure what had happened.  His mum said the heat can do funny things and as there had been no reports of any such incident she convinced the boy that he was confused about the whole thing.

It was 3 months later when mum heard the first report on the news.

In Buxton two girls were missing.  There had been a storm and because of the recent icy spell police were concerned the girls may have suffered hypothermia whilst out walking.

Albie watched every news bulletin.

A week passed then a woman walking her dog on Axe Edge stumbled upon a shallow grave.  The police confirmed that the body was one of the missing girls and forensics verified that she had been murdered.  A wedge shaped blade possibly an axe was suggested as the weapon.

Of the other girl as yet there was no trace.

Albie felt sick he pictured the dark figure in the valley dragging something and knew exactly where the other body would be found.

A bleep it was his phone.

He opened the message

‘They will never believe you’ it said and as he stared at the tiny letters on the screen they faded and were gone.

He checked his phone,

There was no record of a message.

Joyce Janes writer for children

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