[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he afternoon had not gone well. A lady from Social Services had spent an hour interviewing Cadell at the Police Station before deciding he should be placed into care until his parents or a relative was contacted. The youth protested both vocally and physically, and it took two police officers to bundle him into the car. He shouted to Seth to intervene, but what was the old shepherd to do? He was hardly in a position to intervene, living on his own near the top of Llanberis Pass.
That evening, seeking solace in a pint of Robinson’s best bitter, he sat in the snug of the Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris, staring into the embers of the log fire. Two of the locals tried to pull the old man out of his brown study by suggesting he join them at there table, but he was having none of it. He kept mulling over how strange young Cadell seemed, like a fish out of water, an anomaly in many ways. The cloths he wore, he could have stepped straight out of a folk museum. He apparent inability ti converse in the Queen’s English; was that genuine for was he some member of Plaid Cymru, intent of preserving Welsh culture in the extreme? So many everyday things, taken for granted, seemed to be completely new to the youth. Seth glanced down at Llywelyn, who lay at his feet. One time Champion at the Welsh National Sheep Dog Trials; smart dog she was. “What do you make of it all boy?” he asked.
The collie replied by wagging its tail.
In the background a telephone rang. Elidir, the landlord shouted, “Seth; it;s for you. “PC Collins is on the ‘phone. Something about a missing boy!”
It took Seth less than ten minutes to drive to the Police Station. He was surprised at the number of police vehicles parked on the forecourt, all with their blue and white lights flashing. Aeron Collins was standing by one of the vehicles, leaning imm talking to the driver. As Seth approached he looked uo, and broke off the conversation. “Talk to you later, Derwen. Seth Bowen; just the man I want to see.”
“What’s going on Aeron. You said the lad’s got missing. What do you mean?”
“Come see for yourself. Follow me.” PC Collins led the ay into the police station, and took a corridor that lead to the one story annex and the only holding room in the building. He opened the door.
The room looked as though a demolition derby had just taken place. There was plaster all over the floor, and a hole in the ceiling. The bed had been propped up against the wall, used a ladder to the roof space. “Yu can thank your boy for all this mess. Climbed into the attic, removed a some roofing slates, and absconded. Someone is going to pay for all this damage.”
“I don’t understand. I thought he was being played in foster care.”
“And so he was. Until he became so unruly that they caked us; insisted we take him.”
“So you place him in a police cell?’
“Well; hardly a cell. More an interrogation room.”
“With a bed? Mmm. So why did the lad break out?”
“Beats me,” Collins replied. “Kept shouting the place down. Arglwydd Idwal; Dewch i achub fi [Lord Idwal; come save me]. Over and over again. Banging on the door too.”
“By that, I take it; the door was locked.”
“Ah… So there’s the thing. How else could we be sure he would remain there?”
“Aeron; you should pray to God the papers or television doesn’t get hold of this. Locking a sixteen year old up jail cell could end up on the morning news.”
“Collins looked sheepish. “Keeping it quiet might be more difficult than you think. We’ve called in support from Bangor. Already set up road blocks both ends of the town. The inspector suggests we start a full-scale manhunt.”
“With what; bloodhounds? Really!”
“You have a better idea?” the Police Constable asked.
“I knew I could depend on old Seth. Thats why I called you.”
“At the Vaynol Arms. How did I know I would be there?”
“Well you didn’t answer when I called you at home. Simple detective work; that’s all it took.”
“Don’t get any ideas above your rank, Constable,” the old shepherd suggested with a grin. “Now have your Inspector, or whoever else is in charge, to tell everyone to go home. I’ll meet you and that new PC or yours, here at first light.”
“You mean the Probationer; Emlyn Rees?”
“Yes, the very same,” Seth replied. “Fit young man; as sprightly as a goat.”
“What do goats have to do with anything?”
“Because, tomorrow morning the three of us are going to be climbing Mount Snowdon.” PC Collins’ jaw dropped. “What’s the matter; cat got your tongue?”
“Mount… Mount Snowdon. Why Mount Snowdon?”
“You said you have blocked the roads out of town, so our friend will take to the mountains. Simple detective work; that’s all it takes, remember. Probably halfway to the top by now.”
Collins thought for a moment, incredulously asking, “Half way up a mountain at this time of night, in this weather? He must be mad”
“Maybe. But no madder than last night when I found him wandering around the Glyders in the dark, in a snow storm. See you in the morning. Bring plenty of warm clothes, a thermos of hot coffee, and sandwiches.” Seth, called Llywelyn to heal and turned to leave. The dog had been in the room sniffing the bedding. “We’ll meet at the Railway Station. And make sure the coffee has three sugars; go easy in the cream.” Then as an afterthought he asked, “What happened to the sheets?’
“The boy took them with him. I guess,” Collins replied. No idea why. Maybe he thinks they will make a climbing rope?”
“Seth said nothing. Before departing however Seth stepped back into the room and retrieved the blanket off the bed. “Do you mind if I borrow this?”Then turning to the dog, “Come on boy; we need to get some rest. It going to be a busy day tomorrow, ” said leaving the Constable bewildered, once more with his mouth wide open.
It was fifteen minutes before sunrise whenSeth parked his Land Rover beside the building that housed the Film Theatre of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. One other car was on the lot; a ford Focus, which he was about to learn belonged to Howard Edwards, on go the Diesel locomotive engineers. Apparently Constable Collins had the forethought to arrange transport, that meant locomotive #10, a 0-4-2T class aptly named after the mountain creature Yeti, was idling, awaiting two more passengers. Seth stepped out of the wind into the carriage which would be pushed up the mountain; Llywelyn decided there was enough time for him to check out the smells on the platform. Ten minutes later the two policemen arrived. Uniforms discarded, they both wore thick sweaters, windproof, luminous red anoraks, waterproof over-trousers and gaitered waking boots. Collins sported a balaclava. Rees worn a yellow climbers helmet; Seth was too polite to ask whyThe train had be moving steadily along the track for for the first quarter mile, easily negotiating the 1 in 50 gradient. As the climb became steeper, now 1 in 6, the pinion gears meshed with the toothed rack rail set between the running rails. allowed the train to operate on the steep grades. Another quarter mile then Seth signaled the engineer that they should stop. They were at the closed Waterfall station, built to allow visitors to use the train to travel to a spectacular waterfall close to the line.They were now at that was considered the start of the mountain.
The old shepherd rummaged into the knapsack he had brought with him, pulling out the blanket. After encouraging the collie to sniff the woolen material, with a few hand signals Llywelyn enthusiastically found the youth’s scent, and bounded up the mountainside. With a toot of the whistle, the train moved forward, negotiating gradients that varied between 1 in 10 and 1 in 4. Another half mile, stopping short of Hebron station, Seth stepped down to the ground, using the sheepdog whistle attached by a lanyard round his neck, he gave the signal ‘that’ll do’, which told the dog to stop what it was doing and return to its handler. They both re-boarded the train, and Howard Edwards eased the locomotive’s throttle forward.
“Don’t we need the dog on point?” Emlyn Rees asked.
“Put yourself in the boy’s shoes, Seth replied. “Where would you go?”“Up to the top, I guess. But where will he go from there?
“Good question. No doubt Llywelyn will show us at the appropriate time.” Rees nodded his understanding, then walked to the front of the crimson, white and black liveried car and stared out the window. There was not much to see, for the sun had yet to burn off the mist.
Seth went and sat beside Collins. “Time for some refreshment; did you bring that coffee, Aeron?”The Police Constable smiled, opened the flap of his rucksack and produced a large thermos. He removed the top, which served as one cup, then the inside beaker. Pouring two good measures, the two men sat back, allowing Yeti do her stuff.
“What’s with the helmet?” Seth asked, nodding in Rees’s direction.
“Probationer by name; probationer by nature. Turns up at the Police House this morning without any headgear. I told him, that would be something he’d regret. When off and searched the locker room. Found what I guess had been left by Mountain Rescue.” Collins gave a short laugh. “Kinda OTT, me thinks.”
“Better than frost bite. Did you bring the sandwiches?”
“Already? Didn’t you eat breakfast?”
“Of course,” Seth replied with a grin. Collins hand over a package wrapped in aluminum foil. “But you know how it is? A growing lad has got to keep his strength up.” He took a bite. “Mmm; that’s good. Salmon; that’s my favorite.”
“Talking of growing lads, tell me more about young Cadell. You said you were both holed but in that bothy of yours. What do you make of him?”
“”Well; I’ll tell you what I know,” Seth mumbled, mouth full of food. “And you can reach your own conclusion.
On a summer’s day the trip from Llanberis Station to the summit of Mount Snowdon, by train would take approximately an hour. They took forty minutes to reach Halfway station, just under two and-a-half miles into their journey. Continuing on, Constable Collins asked if Seth was going to set the dog back on the track, but the old man, without explanation, shook his head. :Let’s see how far we can get with Yeti. Don’t be so anxious to walk. I can assure you there will be plenty of that. Any more sandwiches?”
“You’ve eaten them all,” was the reply.
“Good think I brought some of my own. Do you like pilchards in tomato sauce?”
It was Collins’ turn to shake his head. “The mist is clearing. I think I’ll go join Rees, whilst you stuff your face.”
The policeman moved along the car, ignoring Seth’s parting remarks, “Llywelyn; you like pilchard sandwiches, don’t you boy?”
The dog wagged its tail enthusiastically.They had been sitting in the railcar for an hour, when they passed Clogwyn station, located on the exposed ridge and overlooking the Llanberis Pass and the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu cliffs, a popular climbing spot. 1000 foot below the summit, they had a mile and-a-half to go. Yeti chugged on, relying in the rack and pinion to maintain traction.
Probationary Rees came hurrying down the aisle of the car, opened the rear door and gesticulated wildly to Howard Edwards. “Stop!” he shouted. “Stop!” The engineer brought the Diesel locative to a halt. Leaning out of his cab, he could just hear, “ The cutting ahead; it’s blocked by snow.”
“Come on Llywelyn; time to go.” Seth gathered up his gear and disembarked the railcar. The dog jumped to the ground. Together they walked back the short distance to the locomotive. By the time the two policemen had joined the, Seth had already thanked Edwards for the ride, and instructed him to return to base.
Once more the border collie was encouraged to seek Cadell’s scent. The dog fussed around for a few minutes, heading along the railway line towards the summit. He then came back and tried the footpath, but found nothing. The old shepherd pulled out the blanket once again, and let the would-be bloodhound sniff.
“Do you think the boy turned off before this point?” Emlyn Rees asked.
“Looks like it,” Aeron Collins concluded.
“Have patience gentlemen. Llywelyn’s a smart dog,” Seth told them “Give him a little time. He’ll work it out.”
Sure enough, backtracking a few hundred yards, the scent was picked up. Cadell had headed north, taking the Pyg Track a steep route down the mountain, terminating at Llanberis Pass.
“Daryn, you take the lead, Seth suggested. “Take extra care. Loose stones and ice can make these paths treacherous. Aaron; you next. I’ll bring up the rear.”
“Shouldn’t we rope ourselves together,” Rees queried.
“Hell no,” Seth replied with a chuckle. “If you go over the edge I sure don’t want to go with you.”
“Thanks for nothing,” the Probationer retorted.
“Croeso [You’re welcome],” the old man replied.
As the three men started their slow, steady descent down the zig known as Llwybr y Mul [mule’s path], on their left they could see the open mine shafts and tailing of copper workings active until 1916. Strange to imagine that until the 1830s, before the main road through Llanberis Pass was built, this path was used to carry copper up to Bwlch Glas and then down the other side of the mountain to Llyn Cwellyn.
The to-and-fro ending, the Pyg Track proceeded in an almost straight line across face of the mountainside, slowly loosing elevation. Rees picked up the pace. “Duw ei ddamnio [God damn it],” the Probationer cursed, as mud and stone broke away from under his right foot and his knee buckled. Regaining his balance, he stopped. Turning round, the other two had apparently not noticed, both concentrating on carefully placing each step. He then took a moment to look south and down toward the waters of Glaslyn way below. There was a vertical scar of fresh earth, which stood out from the snow covered scree slope. Rees guessed it was a least five hundred foot long. ‘Not natural,’ he thought. ‘Man made.’ As Collins came but from behind he pointed. “There; it think that’s our boy.”
Aeron Collins squinted into the distance. “I don’t see anyone.You must have the eyesight of an eagle.”
Seth joined them. “He’s taking about the line through the scree. It’s likely Cadell took a quick way down.”
“That’s highly dangerous,” Collins suggested. “Easy to break a leg, or worse.”
“Probably, slipped and started down the slope. Once over the edge, it would be difficult to stop and keep your feet. The youth is sprightly enough to make it down without incident. Daryn; do you think you could follow him down, and check out the perimeter of the lake? I saw you practicing, a moment ago.”
Rees cursed to himself. ‘Was there nothing the old goat did not miss.’ Not wanting to appear foolish he agreed, but asked, “Are you two going to follow me down.”
Seth chuckled. “With these old pins? You are on your own ffrind [friend]. Radio if you spot the lad. It’s a long shot. I doubt he stayed around. When your down take the Miners’ Track. to Llyn LLydaw. Go see if he’s holed up in the disused copper crushing mill by the lake? Proceed to Pen y Pass if you find nothing. Aeron and I will continue along the Pyg Track. We’ll meet up at the car park.
With a grunt of agreement, Rees started down the steep slope. He took his time, carefully placing is feet, making sure each step had a sure foundation. It took ten minutes to reach the top the scree. The Probationer set his feet on the small stones, surprising himself as they flowed from under him. He was forced to step forward, to keep upright or he would fall onto his backside. The river of rock seemed to flow faster and faster, causing Rees to break into a virtual run. Within less than a minute he was approaching the bottom of the slope, still going at a fair lick. If he continued he would run into the lake itself.
“Ouch!” declared Aeron. “That must have hurt.”
The pair watched as the younger policeman, trying to slow, lost his balance, and fell backwards. Falling onto his back, his head snapped back and smacked onto the stones.
“Good job he is wearing that climbing helmet,” Seth concluded.
“Ydych chi’n iawn? [Are you Okay?]” Collins shouted.
Rees slowly climbed back to his feet, whipped his brow with muddied hands, then waved, before proceeded with extreme caution the short distance to the na,rrow track that skirted the lake. Seeing no one he walked east towards the Miners’ Track. The only thing hurt was his pride.
PC Collins pulled his satellite phone from his anorak pocket, and started to dial.
“Who are you calling?” Seth asked.
“Time to get a chopper in the air.”
“What for? Rees appears to be fine.”
“If the youth is not at the old mine buildings, he’ll have gone left along the track. They’ll be able to spot the youth from a helicopter.”
“What makes you think he’ll stay on the Miners’ Track. Once across Llydaw causeway, he may well turn south.”
“All the more reason to have eyes in the air, They can cover more ground in a hour than we could in a day.”
“Sure, but will they spot a white bed-sheet spread out on a ground covered in snow?” Seth asked, knowing all along the reason Cadell had taken the bedding from Llanberis Police House.”
“”Those Mountain Rescue guys won’t be tricked by a ruse like that; not if I tell them what to look for,” Collins said with satisfaction. “Come on. Let’ get moving. It’s cold just standing here.
“We’re about to land,” the voice of the helicopter pilot announced. Seth and Aeron listened over the link to the satellite ’phone. It had become a day for bad language in Welsh. They heard the pilot curse, once the sheet was lifted. “There’s message here,” he announced, “spelled out with small stones.”
“What does it say?” PC Collins asked.
“Pen coc [dick head!]”
Seth laughed. “And I thought the lad could not read nor write.”