The definitive account of the only case of its kind in Northern Ireland, the ongoing campaign for justice and a labour-of-love in memory of the victim of a murder mystery still officially unsolved after 31 years
By Keeley Moss
PART 27 - CONTENTS Chapter 73: Coming in the Ayr Tonight Chapter 74: Blazing Your Trail Acknowledgements for Part 27
Chapter 73: Coming in the Ayr Tonight
Waiting for the last train
Standing in the pouring rain
Thinking, wishing, hoping
Clutching on the last straw
Seeing things I never saw
One step forward
Two steps back
And you’re gone
The Mighty Lemon Drops – ‘Inside Out’
Boarding the packed train in Glasgow Central for Ayr I reach into my rucksack and check my phone for the time. The journey is set to take one hour. By the time of reaching the town of Troon however there is almost nobody left on the train and by the time it reaches the last stop in Ayr, I am one of only three people who get off. The weather on this night is suitably Scottish – blustery, cold and dank. But being Irish I am more than accustomed to inclement climes.
Stepping onto the platform in Ayr that familiar feeling returns. I had felt it upon arrival in London, Oxford, Headington, Bath, Bristol, Preston, Inverness and Glasgow. The sense of her having been here. I have ninety minutes to kill. But where to go? There’s no seating area or waiting room in Ayr station due to an ongoing rebuilding job that has rendered any and all enclosed spaces inaccessible to the public. Then again, even if there had been somewhere sheltered to sit in the station, I would have preferred to take the opportunity to explore Ayr for the hour and a half I have here.
So that’s what I decide to do. Swapping one dark slab of concrete wetness for another, I exit the station and without the slightest clue where I’m going, set off in a randomly chosen direction. My phone has again run out of battery so I can’t access the satellite navigation. Before long I find myself on a motorway, which I hope will lead me towards Ayr town centre. I guess right, and after a while it looms into view. Sniffing out the scent of the centre, I keep walking. Despite the bad weather, I’m excited to be here, in Ayr. Somewhere new. Somewhere else. Somewhere else with a connection to her.
Chapter 74: Blazing Your Trail
You were there in the turnstiles
With the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars and you know how it feels
To reach too high
You saw the whole of the moon
Flags, rags, ferryboats
Scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision underneath the stars
Yes, you climbed on the ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail
You saw the whole of the moon
The Waterboys – ‘The Whole of the Moon’
I have still yet to encounter even one person since I stepped off the train. Although a part of my nature favours safety, erring on the side of caution, the Gemini star sign I share with Inga means a larger part of me is drawn to the deep end. Those who are that way inclined tend to break loose and choose the choppier waters in life, unable to quell the curious urges.
And what of Ayr? The streets are completely deserted. No people. No cars. Nowhere. I walk further then choose a street at random, again guided by instinct. Passing by a pub named Rabbie’s, I glance at the windows. It looks like there’s life inside. It’s the only sign of life in Ayr tonight. I pause and ask myself if I should go in? I don’t drink alcohol and pub culture is not my thing. So, what business have I got going in a pub? But everywhere else in the town looks to be closed, and I mean everywhere. I still haven’t set eyes on a human being in the 25 minutes I’ve been here. I want to have an adventure. Going all the way to Ayr only to wander down a motorway and walk through deserted streets in the dark would be hard to qualify as an adventure. But the whole time in the back of my mind there’s the memory of her mission, a pursuit that plummeted from pleasure to peril. This decision is balanced on a knife edge. It’s such a mundane moment – I’m in a Scottish town at night and I’m merely trying to decide whether to enter a pub or not. However because I have spent literally every waking hour of the past three years with the details of Inga’s case on my mind, during this trip retracing her steps I am more conscious than I might be otherwise of the potential life-changing significance of what may appear on the surface to be straightforward events and innocuous choices. Deciding to enter this pub might make no difference to anything or it could change my life in some catastrophic way. Similarly, not entering it could leave me open to some other unforeseen threat to my existence. These are ultimately scenarios we are all faced with most days of our lives. Over-analysing the potential perils and permutations to the extent that you could become paralysed by doubt or fear is no way to live. The best of a bad bunch of options is probably to live on instinct and try to experience as much as possible in life while trying to balance the scales of safety and risk.
So once again I let my heart and head be led by instinct’s instructions, and I open the door to the pub. I need to charge my phone for what feels like the 427th time this day, and at the same time I’m thinking I just might have an experience in here that could be something to remember. I cross the lounge and try to find a power socket to charge my phone. There’s a football match on the TV – it’s the 90th minute of a game Glasgow Rangers are drawing 0-0 against some European side. There are a bunch of men sitting around the TV watching the match. I’m just relieved to be in out of the wretched weather. I’m also wondering how the hell Rangers are in Europe, the last I’d heard they’d been relegated to Division 3 or something. I take my rucksack off my shoulders and place it on the seat beside me. I’m expecting a member of the bar staff to approach me any moment now and expect me to buy a drink, which would be fair enough. Except they rarely serve in pubs the kind of drinks I like (I have very childlike tastes) and I’m not enthusiastic about the idea of buying a drink I don’t want, plus I need to conserve what little remaining funds I have… Wonder where I stay tonight. Need more money.
Suddenly a man approaches me and asks me a question in such an impenetrable accent I don’t understand a word of it. Figuring he must be a member of the bar staff and is asking me what I want to order, I ask “What hot drinks do you have here?” It’s a cold night and I could do with a hot drink. I can tell by the confused expression on his face that he must have asked me a different question than the one I thought I was responding to. However, it soon becomes apparent that not only is that the case, but it turns out he isn’t a member of bar staff at all. He’s just a guy in the bar, and he had approached me to ask if I wanted a drink. This was the last thing I was expecting. I am never asked out in Dublin. Not that he is asking me out. He is asking me if I would like a drink. But is a guy in a pub asking you if you’d like a drink merely a pre-amble before asking or expecting other things? As I say, it doesn’t happen to me in Dublin, so I wasn’t sure how to deal with it now that it was happening in Ayr. I scramble my thoughts and hope some half-sensible reply might come tumbling out of my mouth. In a split second I have to ask myself several questions – namely “Who is this guy?”, “Is he expecting something in return if I accept his offer of a drink?”, “Is this a ruse of some sort?”, “Or worse, is history repeating itself here and is this guy going to end up doing to me what Inga’s killers did to her?” The fact that I was only here to retrace her footsteps had heightened my sense of awareness in terms of trying to avoid a similar fate, and had intensified my second-guessing analysis of the situations I was finding myself in. Since my arrival in Ayr I had already debated with myself whether to leave the leave train station and go and explore the area – I ultimately decided yes. Then I debated with myself whether to enter this pub – I’d decided yes to that as well. Now I was being confronted by a guy I had never met in my life who was asking me if I’d like him to buy me a drink. In that moment I recognised a strange parallel with the moment Inga was approached at Larne – do I say no and risk seeming impolite? Do I say yes and risk getting myself into a situation I might regret? Or do I bypass both of those options and instead say something that confuses the hell out of him?
Evidently my brain chooses the latter option. Having already wrongly mistaken the guy for a member of bar staff, I respond to his question of “Would you like a drink?” with some comment about how I’m looking for a way to charge my phone, which is at least a way to sidestep his question about the drink. This however doesn’t deter him. His next question throws me another curveball. “Would you like a game of pool?” he seemed to be saying. Pool? What sort of a follow-up question is that? “Would I like a game of pool?”, I reply rhetorically, and in doing so I buy myself some time to figure out what I’m going to do. I realise I’m asking myself as much as repeating his question back at him. Would I like a game of pool? I’m not sure. I again go through the whole “Is this some sort of ruse?” analysis in my head. Then I think, “Fuck it, you wanted an adventure, let’s see where it leads”. So I nod, pick up my rucksack and follow him through to the back of the pub where there is a pool table. To my surprise there’s a second guy there, who is clearly known to the guy who asked me if I wanted a drink and a game of pool, and there‘s also a girl here who appears to know them both. Hello. What’s going on here? And all the time unbeknownst to them, in my head the only sound I can hear is “Inga, Inga, Inga, Inga…”
I try to stop being paranoid and get ready for this game of pool. I plug my phone into the wall socket, put my rucksack on a tabletop where I can keep an eye on it, and take off my coat, hat and gloves. The guy who asked me to play pool introduces himself at this point. He says his name is Dean, and it turns out he’s not from Ayr but from Bradford, a city I have holidayed in several times so it’s hard to fathom why I initially found his accent so hard to understand. We begin the game of pool and he soon races into a commanding lead. I’m playing so badly it’s as if I have invented a whole new sport with the exact opposite objective of the game he is playing.
Soon after we began the game, he opens up and begins telling me his life story. His is a classic cautionary tale, but ultimately one that has led to redemption and salvation. He had been a heroin addict for most of his life, had become involved in crime in order to feed his addiction, ended up burgling what sounds like half the houses in Bradford and ended up in prison where he continued to abuse hard drugs. It took him until he met his second wife who he credits with having turned his life around before the self-destructive and reckless path he had been on for many years came to an end. We end up talking for a good while, and during this time it becomes apparent to me that rather than him being someone to be wary of, as I had first been when he approached me and asked if I would like a drink, I realise he is only someone to admire – his honesty, his willingness to recognise his flaws and acknowledge the damage he had done to himself and many others around him, and furthermore his intelligence. He’s an ordinary working-class guy from Bradford, a former long-term heroin addict with a string of criminal convictions, and yet he is as wise as anyone I have met. And what’s more, a genuinely lovely guy. By some miracle, the very same pool game in which he’s played like a pro for much of it, while for much of it I’ve played like a demented octopus, I end up finding form late on and somehow emerge the victor. He is magnanimous in defeat, I end up accepting his second offer of a drink, he’s totally sincere in expecting nothing in return and after a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating time spent in his company playing the good game of pool and talking, we hug goodbye and I put my coat on, lift my rucksack onto my shoulders once more and prepare to return to Ayr station to catch the last train to Stranraer.
The streets of Ayr are still empty, the weather still dank and dreary. But something has changed. Nothing has changed on the surface, but I have just witnessed the enormous impact change can have on a human being, a person who managed to turn his life around and away from the hellish harems of hard drug addiction and criminality. I take several things away from this encounter, a rare minor sporting triumph for one thing, a soulful connection with a fellow human being for another, and one more example that not everything is as it first appears on the surface. It was ultimately a far better use of my ninety minutes in Ayr than if I’d spent the whole time in the train station. I had taken a chance in exploring this remote town late at night and I’d been fine. I had taken another chance in embracing the uncertainty of spending time in the company of a guy I didn’t know from Adam, and again it had all worked out even better than I had hoped. But with each thing that was going right for me, it caused me to cast my mind back to Inga once more, and the way her backpacking trip and even more so her entire life had suddenly and through no fault of her own unravelled disastrously and tragically.
I make my way back to the train station and after exploring the station area I head for the platform. Huddling in my coat beneath the tangerine tones of the station lights the winter cold of an Ayrshire night unfurls its freezing flag. Looking up, through a haze of Scottish fog I see the electric information board display the following statement:
On time Platform 4
Only eight minutes left to wait now. I stand on the platform with my rucksack and visualise her standing here the same way three decades before. She was here, on this same platform, in this same station, albeit for a mere two minutes as she hopped off one train and onto another. But the second of those trains would unwittingly deliver her into danger, into a sequence of events that would reverberate far into the future and continue doing so right up to the present day. And beyond.
And it was beyond where she was bound. And in retracing her steps through the rural and urban jungles of all these cities and towns, beyond was where I too was bound.
And so, the next leg of this spiritual mission dawns. Ayr to Stranraer.
Suddenly, the distant glimmer of lights appear on the horizon and gradually become larger as the locomotive draws closer. I grasp for a semblance of security by putting my hand in my coat pocket and fumbling around for my Interrail pass which I hadn’t seen since Glasgow two and a half hours ago.
It was still there. I was still here. She is gone. Soon I would be too.
Bound for whatever lies beyond.
TO BE CONTINUED
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2019. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 27
Inside Out written by Newton/Linehan. Published by Warner Bros. Music Ltd. ©1988
The Whole of the Moon written by Mike Scott. Published by Warner/Chappell Music ©1985