Authors: Amy Shaw
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be circulated in writing of any publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
After a nine hour flight, Abby Hart arrived in London and wearily pulled her case from Heathrow's baggage carousel. With just five days until she'd be back here for the return journey, she didn't have time to soak in the culture or catch a show. This was more than a mini-break and only one man was on her mind. Her grandfather.
A cool wave of air brushed over her face as she pushed through the large glass doors and left the main arrivals building. Eying the tube signs, bus terminals and taxi cabs, Abby dragged her squeaky wheeled suitcase in one hand, tightly holding the strap of her rucksack and scrunched car rental agreement in the other. Twelve minutes later, a flash of her passport and an eligible squiggle, Abby was sat behind the wheel of her reserved white compact Volkswagen Polo. With her case in the trunk and rucksack sat next to her on the passenger seat, she inched her way into the morning rush hour towards the M4 motorway.
It's a journey she had made three times before, each time wondering if it would be her last. This time she was sure it would be. Easing up to traffic lights and using her hands- free, Abby called her best friend Melissa who insisted on staying up until she arrived safely.
"Abby! You got there in one piece?" Melissa asked enthusiastically.
"Yes, I'm here and the sun is out. I told you I would be alright, you worry too much."
"Any problems with getting through customs?"
"No problem at all, the bag went through and nobody looked inside or asked me any questions. It's here next to me in the car."
"Oh that's good news. Your grandpa will be so happy you've taken the time to do this."
"Yes I know he will. Despite the timing, it's the least I could do. I can't help think this was his plan all along, like he knew I would be the one doing this."
"You know if things were different I would be there with you?"
"Yes, I know, it's not your fault. You have more than your hands full there and anyway I wanted to do this. I wanted to have one last heart-to-heart with him before I come home."
"Okay honey, be careful, good luck and I'll let your Mom know you've arrived."
The lights went green and Abby headed down the on-ramp, finally joining the motorway heading West. Traffic was building thick in the opposite lanes with Monday morning commuters heading East into London. With the sun shining brightly in her mirror and lighting the road ahead, Abby eased into a 75mph cruise to the sounds of Radio 1.
Abby knew Hope Cove was just over four hours away and the motorway would take care of most of the miles, switching onto the M5 in a couple of hours and heading south to Devon before the three-lane motorway sheds a lane and becomes the A38 dual carriageway.
As Abby pulled off the carriageway onto a quiet and deserted road she was aware of butterflies in her stomach. Up until now it had all felt like a procedure, now though, the nerves were making their presence felt. The sign in front made no mention of Hope Cove but she knew exactly the direction to take.
A narrow hedge lined road swept its way through luscious green grass countryside, with rolling hills and big trees towering above. The late morning sun gleamed through the branches, flashing across Abby's face. Bright yellow daffodils straddled the edges of the road, adding a touch of cheer to the thorny hedges that threatened to scratch if you got too close. In the distance, white daisies were scattered over the fields like snowflakes in spring. On a hilly stretch of road, Abby could see the blue ribbon of sea ahead in the distance, a welcoming sight but on this trip another trigger for the butterflies.
Turning right, off the main route into a hidden lane only barely wide enough for one car, the rough tarmac surface jolted the little Volkswagen as it snaked its way round the blind left and right handers before reaching the familiar welcome sign already overgrown with the spring hedge line.
Abby smiled as she entered the tiny fishing village of Hope Cove, partly glad to be back again and partly glad to see everything sitting exactly the same since her last visit. Sitting deep in the South West of England and home to only a few hundred people, Abby always enjoyed the relaxing pace of life and the natural charm oozing from every nook and cranny. She found the unusual dual aspect of the village appealing, split into two by the cove itself. The two halves separated by the sea and only joined by a golden sandy beach at low tide with a single track lane running up and around the beaches rocky cliffs.
Abby took a sharp left, sign posted for Inner Hope leading to the oldest part of the cove where the fisherman's cottages line the narrow lane. A steep hill wound its way around the back of the old cobbled lifeboat house and up onto the far reaching cliff top. Changing down a gear, the little Volkswagen strained its way up the single track, 2,550 feet above sea level. Leveling out into a broken, pot-holed track way, the lighthouse was dead ahead. Towering over Hope Cove, its views reaching the city of Plymouth 15 miles away and on a clear day the tip of England in the depths of Cornwall some 70 miles away.
Abby pulled up the driveway in front of the lighthouse and her grandfather's small cottage. Turning off the engine, she sat silently staring at the front door waiting for it to open. Feeling exhausted, she stepped out of the car, closed her eyes and took a lungful of the cool sea air, her tongue touching her lips and tasting the slight salty atmosphere. Leaving her case in the trunk for later, she made her way around to the passenger side, opened the door, lifted the bag up off the seat with both hands and heaved it onto her back. The waves crashed into the rocks below but it gave a soothing sound. The wind made more of a ferocious noise as it hurled around the lighthouse. Crunching her way across the stony drive area, Abby approached the small front door to the cottage biting her lower lip.
She paused, hearing her grandfather's voice from inside and listened as another man spoke. It was difficult to make out what was being said. Something about a cat purring, black mountains and a boot full of wet gear - was this code speak? Carefully placing her key into the lock and slowly opening the door as if not to disturb or alert anyone to her presence, Abby stepped through the door. It was cold inside with a slight musty air. The curtains were shut and daylight was seeping through the small crack line above the curtain pole, letting in just enough light to outline the furniture. Abby closed the door behind her gently allowing it to click shut. Walking through the kitchen area, past the closed bathroom and bedroom doors, Abby stepped into the open living room. She gave a small sigh of relief as she eased the bag off her shoulders and gently lay it onto the soft sofa. The cottage was normally quiet but this felt eerily quiet.
Suddenly the phone let out a piercing ring echoing throughout the cottage making Abby jump with a startled shock. Catching her breath, she lifted up the receiver and greeted politely. It was the same voice she just heard a moment ago through the door.
At a secret location in Wales, UK, armed police officers patrolled the quiet lanes surrounding the grounds of a disused Abbey. Although now ruins, the church and tower still stand, and the grounds are normally open for public visits. But not today. The information center is a wash of blue and red flashing lights as police cars barricade the entrance.
Deep within the beautiful grounds, a blue Aston Martin DB6 Volante sits strikingly on a patch of grass next to the lake, just off the main drive. The arched ruins of the Abbey look on in the distance, the crumbled tower now home to a family of noisy rooks squawking in the afternoon sun. It was the perfect location for a photo shoot, the car, the grounds and the man who drove the car here. But this was no photo shoot and no record of this moment was to be shared.
Only two men, both wearing suits, were here. A member of the Royal family and an official sent from the National Museum Cardiff who is anxiously transfixed on the lake water in front of the Aston Martin. Under normal conditions the museum would arrange for a regular finds liaison officer to oversee a search investigation, but this was no ordinary search. Funded by the Crown Estate, this secret operation was the result of two and a half years research undertaken by ex-private investigator Eugene Hart. Currently too ill to attend this expedition and back at home in the United States, the eighty-six year old sent his number one specialist Mark Munro to the Abbey.
Mark had a reputation already with the Crown Estate for his unconventional methods and controversial search and recovery skills. The excited Royal had cancelled a meeting to be at the Abbey today, the curiosity of a myth being laid to rest was too much to miss out on.
History had a record detailing the monks of the Abbey being entrusted with royal treasures for safekeeping from Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales and Lord of Aberffraw at the start of his final campaign in 1282. He was killed later that year and in 1284 the Abbey was attacked when the Kingdom of Gwynedd was defeated. Llywelyn's gold coronet was taken along with other holy artifacts and the Abbey destroyed. Much speculation and local myth suggests the coronet was not stolen, nor destroyed but in fact remains hidden. Research was indicating the hiding spot may not have been too far from the Abbey after all.
The two men now stood quietly, looking out over the still lake.
"I imagine this would be quite a moment for you if Munro found it," Mr. Mathews, the museum official said.
The Royal turned to look at the official and pursing his lips together nodded his head, before looking back at the lake. "It would be bloody fantastic! Quite a moment for the whole family I would think," he replied.
Suddenly air bubbles broke the surface of the water and a head appeared. It was Mark. Wearing a wetsuit and full scuba gear, Mark pulled the air compressor out of his mouth and made his way out of the water, holding a luminous underwater metal detector in one hand and a long handled stainless-steel scoop in the other.
"Here let me help you," offered the Royal.
"That's okay Sir, don't let me get you all wet," Mark said dropping his metal scoop to the ground and carefully placing the underwater detector beside it. His wet suit hugged the muscular curves of his body and would be attracting a lot of attention if this was one of his beach explorations. "Gentlemen!" he smiled, removing his scuba glasses. "I think we have something." Mark reached into his bag and pulled out a chalice.
"Gold?" Mr. Mathews asked.
"No I think it's bronze. Anglo Saxon perhaps, over a thousand years old," Mark replied.
The Royal raised his eyebrows and asked "Bronze? Shouldn't that be an off green, murky looking color, especially after a thousand years?"
"It's the beauty of being under water, Sir. It sinks into the clay which stops any air ruining it and thus preserves it all this time," explained the official.
"My goodness, it looks brand new, like the day it was made," said the stunned Royal.