We came back from Edinburgh yesterday. There is so much to tell you about this trip that I don’t even know where to start! On the whole train journey Frank and me didn’t exchange one single word. I watched a movie on the computer and he read a book (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). When we arrived in Edinburgh we didn’t have a hotel and it was already 10 p.m. As we didn’t find a free room (I know it sounds incredible) we slept on a bench in a park.
The next day we went to visit the brother of the man that we had found dead on the tracks. Frank had phoned him a day before. He lived in a house near the railway station. The house made a really poor impression: The windows were dirty and the door was nearly broken. The man that opened the door looked almost the same: His face was really dirty and seemed quite angry.
“I’m Frank, and you’re Tom I suppose!”
“Ehm, yes! Who is this?” he he said, indicating me.
“I’m Henry O’Brien, pleasure!”
“Come in, I’m sorry for the mess!”
The interior of the house was really repellent. Every little corner was occupied by some peculiar object. There was not one single free spot where you could sit down, so we just stood there and started to talk about Tim.
“Did you have a good relationship with your brother?” asked Frank.
“Not really, no! We haven’t been in touch since he moved to London many, many years ago.”
“When did he move exactly?”
“Twenty-two years ago!”
“Why did he go away?”
“He said that he had found work in London and that he would be happier there. We were all quite upset afterwards and never contacted him again!”
“Did Tim change in the last weeks before he left Edinburgh?”
“I don’t think. The decision came quite suddenly, without announcement.”
“Thank you very much Tom for this answers. They could be really useful. Goodbye!”
“No worries. Goodbye!”
We also visited Tim’s mother this day, who lived only a few blocks away from Tom’s flat. The visit was almost completely useless, as she gave almost exactly the same answers as her son, Tom.
The next day we took the train back to London. I could see in Frank’s face that he was quite deluded. Probably he expected to find out more about the corpse of Aldwych station.
This was the weekend. I’m really curious how this case will continue. I now finally know Frank’s job: He is a detective.
A few minutes later we walked down another tunnel that turned to the left just a few feet away from the platforms.
“This tunnel was once used for trains also,” said Max “But due to a lack of passengers the line was closed down and the tracks were dismantled. It’s a shame!”
Looking at the empty tunnel made me feel really sad. This tunnel was something without a function, and things that have lost their reason to be always make me sad. If you listened very carefully you could hear the water drops falling down from the ceiling. This was truly the perfect spot to locate a ghost story. With our three torches we tried to illuminate the dark as much as we could, but the black air was much stronger.
Suddenly Frank said: “There is blood somewhere! I can smell it! Look carefully in all the corners. The blood is fresh.” I have to admit that this time Frank scared me a little bit. He seemed a hungry lion hunting his victim. There was nothing that could stop him and it didn’t take much time for him to find the dead body.
The corpse lied exactly in the middle of the tunnel. I had never seen a dead person, so I really had to make an effort avoid vomiting. The person was a young man, I guess about 30 years old. He had quite short hair and must have been quite handsome before he was killed. There was a big blood-lake on the floor of the tunnel and we had to be really careful not to step in it.
“You see, that’s what they wanted to hide!” Frank said.
“But why didn’t they kill me too?” Max asked.
“Because they didn’t want people to wonder about the fact that you never left Aldwych station again!”
“And now the big question:” I said “Who is ‘they’”
“My dear Henry, I have absolutely no idea!”
We emptied the pockets of the victim and luckily we could find his passport. Tim Cooper was his name and he was Scottish, from Edinburgh.
“Beautiful city! Do you fancy making an excursion this weekend, Henry?”
“Why do you mean?”
“Well, if this Tim Cooper is from Edinburgh he will certainly have family there! This evening I will check. We could visit them and ask a few questions. Tomorrow at 9 o’ clock there is a train from Paddington station.”
Indeed, Tim had family in Edinburgh. His mother and his brother. Frank and I decided to take the train tomorrow, so now I’m preparing my suitcase. I will not be online for a few days now so don’t expect me to write till Monday. I wish you a pleasant weekend!
Max had left so many questions in my head that the whole evening, till I went to bed, I was thinking about the dark tunnels of the London Underground.
Frank woke me up at 7 a.m. This is normal working time for me, so I was able to dress quite fast and at 7.30 a.m. we were already on the street. Aldwych tube station isn’t far away from Wellington street. You just have to walk in the direction of the Thames for five minutes, turn to your left when you cross Strand and you will see the red-bricked building of the station after another five minutes. “Piccadilly Railway – Strand station”, the sign hasn’t changed since 1907. ‘Strand’ was the original name of the station and was later changed to ‘Aldwych’ because there already existed a station called ‘Strand’, which led to much confusion.
Max was waiting for us at the old entrance in Surrey street.
“Hello Max!” said Frank “Are you ready to hunt some ghosts?”
Something about Max’s face told me that he didn’t think Frank’s remark was funny at all. He opened the door very slowly. Maybe he wasn’t really sure if he had the courage to go down there again, but I saw how he tried to convince himself and finally made it. Behind the grey door was black darkness, till Max turned on the light and we could see what had remained of the old station. Strangely enough, everything seemed to be exactly as it was when the last train left: you could see the ticket office, the toilets, and just everything that you expect from a railway station. We went down the stairs to the platform. The walls were so full of dirt, that you could hardly see what was under it. It was such a strange feeling to walk in an empty underground station: normally everything is crowded.
Soon enough, we reached the platform.
“Where did it happen?” asked Frank.
Max indicated the tunnel entrance. “The fog came out there, and if we enter the tunnel I will show you where the lights were.”
Frank hopped onto the tracks and went straight towards the tunnel. When he reached it, he started to sniff on the walls. “The fog was clearly made of steam!” he said. I was so glad not to be the only one who was surprised. Max uttered some strange sounds that could indicate admiration. We both followed Frank down to the Tunnel.
“Show me where the lights were!”
After about fifty metres Max stopped. “I’m sure that the light came from here but there’s nothing!”
“It must have been an electrical light, otherwise there would be clearer signs”, said Frank “Do you see the little hole in the wall? That’s where they fixed the lamp!”
“Ok, that’s all clear!” I said “But why should someone be interested in scaring Max to death?
“Yes, that’s the big question now! Obviously somebody doesn’t want him to come down here! This somebody wants to be alone!”
“But doesn’t he generate more attention by doing all this ghost stuff?”
“He thought that Max wouldn’t tell it to anybody, but luckily enough, there is me, and now we’re following his footsteps!”
I was just sitting down on the big, green chair longing to read today’s newspaper, when suddenly the bell rang. Frank had left a few minutes ago but had the key to the apartment, so another person must have done it. I went downstairs and opened the door. The man who was waiting outside was rather small and a bit chubby. His clothes were dirty, even though they seemed quite new.
“Where is Frank?” he asked me.
I wondered if I should tell him a lie, but as this man seemed to know Frank, I didn’t.
“He went out a few minutes ago to buy something.” I said.
“Please let me in, I have to talk to him. It’s really important!”
I couldn’t do anything, the man just passed and went into the apartment. He sat down and looked around quite anxiously. For some reason he seemed to be really afraid, so I didn’t try to scare him away.
A few minutes later, Frank came home. I looked at the man and saw relief in his face. He immediately went to the door and saluted Frank.
“Hi Frank, I’m so glad you’ve come. I need your help!”
“Oh hello Max!” said Frank, “I didn’t expect to see you here today! How is life going at the moment?”
“Not really well, that’s the problem!”
“At work something strange happened, below the streets of London. When I was inspecting the tunnels yesterday…”
“You might have to explain it to Henry, he doesn’t know!”
“Ehm, yes! Of course. I work for the London Underground, but not as a train driver. (I thought to hear proudness in his voice when saying that) My task is to inspect the abandoned tube stations, the ones that haven’t been used for decades. I control if everything is alright down there. Well, it happens that yesterday on my evening shift I was inspecting the tunnels under Arundel street near the old Piccadilly-line station “Aldwych”. This station has been disused since 1994. Suddenly I noticed that there was a light shining in the tunnel, so I walked towards it. When it was just a few feet away, the light went off. That is not such an abnormal thing, electricity problems are quite frequent in the old tunnels, but then I noticed that there was another light burning, just a bit further away. Again I walked down the tunnel towards the light and again the light went off when I reached it. I had now returned to Aldwych station where the lamps were burning. Nobody was in the station except me. I tried to forget what I’d just seen and hopped onto the old platform. The work was done now and my wife was waiting for me at home.
You won’t believe what happened afterwards: Suddenly the lights of the station went off. I immediately turned on the torch and looked around me. I could see nothing except the dark, lonely station. There was no noise if you don’t consider my breathing. I could even hear my heartbeat. Just when I wanted to leave, I noticed that there was white fog coming out of the tunnel. A shiver ran down my spine. As fast as I could I ran up the stairs and didn’t look back till I could see the daylight. I don’t know what was going on in Aldwych, Frank, but I’m sure that it was not just a technical problem!”
This man’s tale was simply absurd. It was as if all the ghost stories about abandoned tube stations came true. The question is: how can this man be so infantile to believe something like that, and most of all, why did he come to Frank with such a problem?
Covent garden was pretty crowded on that Monday morning. The sky had now cleared up and the sun was shining again on the paving stone of the old market. Everything was so beautiful, everything just looked like paradise to me. It must be really nice to live in this place!
I didn’t have to walk for long till I discovered it: there it was, right in front of me: 32, Wellington street, a very small, old and beautiful house. On the ground floor was a small Italian restaurant which looked very good. Behind the window were many people drinking coffee, talking or reading the papers. The house was a typical Victorian House. I wonder how much rent may cost in this top position. The door was green-painted with a shining, silver knob in the middle. It was so clean that I could see my reflection in it. Suddenly the door opened and Frank stepped out.
“Ah, you are very punctual! That’s typical for a bus driver. Come in!”
Alright, I’ve just told you, that the outside of the house was very lovable and everything seemed so clean. Well, the interior was exactly the opposite. Firstly, it was so dark that I could hardly see anything. Then I noticed that there were cobwebs everywhere. It was disgusting! How can it be possible to find in central London a house like that? Well, I followed Frank upstairs and entered a minuscule apartment. As you might expect, the same thing here: Dirt everywhere and shutters close so you could just see a tiny line of sunlight. I could smell an appalling stink that reminded me of an excursion to the sewerage.
“So, Henry. I have to talk to you about something really important: Do you want to move in here?”
I thought after this magnificent first impression, this was exactly the right question to ask.
“Seriously! You wouldn’t have to pay anything for it!”
I have to say that living in central London for free was a really tempting idea. So please: try to understand my answer and don’t think that I’m completely mad!
I said yes, and before I realized it, Frank considered me as his flatmate.
The day after I moved the few things I had in Clapham to Wellington street and started a whole new life. Don’t ask me why I did that. I know it’s strange to move into a house of a man that you had just met the day before. But there was something about this strange man that I really liked, something that I never felt before. I felt that Frank could soon become a really good friend, and as you might expect: so it was!
Now that I’ve told you everything that there is to know about how I met this incredible person, you might want to know what happened afterwards. I’ve lived in Wellington street for a few weeks now, and they were the most incredible weeks of my life. Yesterday we had a strange visitor. But I will tell you about him tomorrow.
“Good evening!” I replied, but I’m not sure if I really meant it. The man sat down on the chair right in front of me. “My name is Frank Malgar!” said he.
“I’m Henry O’ Brien, pleasure!”
“I know, yes! Are you looking for an apartment?”
“What, in London?”
“Yes, of course!”
“Can’t afford it, it’s way too expensive. I’m a bus driver!”
“Where do you live?”
“I know a way to make life in London affordable to you!”
“I’m not interested, thank you!” With these words I stood up and walked straight towards the door, without looking back. The tea was still on the table.
“Henry, tomorrow at 10 o’clock. 32, Wellington street!”
I went home, the Underground was crowded, as every morning. The weird face of Frank Malgar was in my head the whole day. How could he possibly know my name before we’ve even met? It was probably the first time that I was truly scared of somebody. At home I turned on the computer and looked up his name, but found absolutely nothing about him. I was seriously considering to go to 32, Wellington street the next morning, as it sounded like an adventure, and I must say that I always dreamed of living an adventure. When you’ve been a bus driver for twenty years you long for every tiny little distraction. After hours of thinking, I finally sank into the soft and warm pillow and fell asleep.
The night was dreamless, as always.
The next morning I woke up at five o’ clock. I opened the window and took a deep breath. The air was freezing cold. You could still smell the strange but pleasant smell of yesterday’s rain. Why did I wake up so early? Even the neighbours were still asleep (They are generally considered as mad, because they always wake up before sunrise, even on Sundays!). I drank a cup of tea and went downstairs to look if the newspaper was already there. Indeed! “Strange case on the London Underground” was written on the front page. Just when I opened it, the phone rang. It was my mother who called from her holidays in Italy. “Beautiful weather here! You should come too!” I don’t fancy going on holidays, even though it might sound a little bit boring. I prefer staying in my small, comfortable flat, read a good book and watch outside the poor people who have to walk in the rain (It rains quite often in London!). So after a very painful 20-minutes call, I went back to my tea and newspaper. Then, when I could finally have some peace, I remembered what this strange man, Frank Malgar, yesterday said to me: “Henry, tomorrow at 10 o’ clock. 32, Wellington street!” As Monday was my second free day, I decided to take the train to central London. I had no idea what was expecting me.
It has been a while now since I’ve met him, the one and only Frank Malgar. I’m not a really sociable person and I would never talk to a complete stranger walking down the street. That’s probably the reason why Frank and I get on so well. He’s the only person I can truly call a friend, and you can believe me: there’s so much to tell you about him, that I can’t even decide where to start. Maybe I should first tell you how we’ve met.
It was on a rainy December Sunday in Soho. The blue sky was covered with clouds and the rain transformed the streets into rivers. Nobody had the courage to go out with this weather, nobody except Frank and me. I was wet from top to bottom and definitely needed a place to warm up and dry my clothes, so I just decided to enter the next café that I could spot, I believe it was on the corner to Wardour street. It took me a while, as I was completely focused on the boiling tea that was waiting for me, to realize that the room was completely empty. I didn’t even have time to think about this fact when suddenly a man opened the door. It was a really strange man, somehow frightening. He was so tall that he hardly could pass through the door. You didn’t have to look closely to notice his peculiar eyes and how they inspected the café very vacantly, as if they would already know every tiny little detail of this particular café by heart, and it would be just a waste of energy to pay more attention. But then his eyes stopped on me, and there they rested. This enigmatic man was staring at me! I instantly turned my head and tried to focus on my tea that still was untouched on the little green table. I thought: “Oh God, please help me! Why did I come here?” Then I heard the steps of the man coming nearer and nearer until there was silence again. “Good evening!” said he. This was our first conversation.