Alpine Mystery – Part 1
John and I had been skiing Switzerland and decided that after visiting the main tourist ski fields wanted something different and more exciting.
We were with friends Joshua and Fiona De Lacey who were our school friends when young. Their families had skied in Europe for centuries, and though their relatives refused to talk about it, it was believed they once owned a luxury hotel somewhere in the ski fields.
We wished they owned it now as accommodation was very hard to come by especially at this time of the year.
Fiona was a very quiet girl but Joshua liked adventure, sometimes he was a pain in the neck with his ideas.
We had taken the wrong bus and wound up at a very small village at the foot of the Alps. We managed to book in to an archaic B&B. The furniture was like the 1800s, with even a huge Aspidistra in a pot in the hall and with a very old proprietor who spoke very slow English.
When Joshua signed the guest’s book at the desk, the old man gave a gasp when he saw the signature and gave a really strange look. We wondered why?
We decided to have a look at the snowy land around the place and wandered down to the bottom of one of the high mountains. A wire fence held a sign ‘ Keep Out’ and inside the fence there was an old wooden shed. ‘Oh my goodness look? What is that, it looks like a railway line.’ Yes it did but one covered in dirt and wet grass. Joshua climbed over the fence, I yelled ‘What about the sign you idiot, it might be dangerous.’
Well that was the wrong thing to tell Josh, it was like a red rag to a bull. He went right ahead. ‘It goes into the shack and out the other side’ he yelled. By now John was interested and also jumped the fence. Fiona and I stayed outside but in looking up I spied a cave high up in the mountain, no it was a tunnel as the rail line went up and into the cave. Now I too was excited and encouraged Fiona to come too.
The shack held some wooden seats and what looked like an office. Cables were tangled on the floor.
‘Let’s go back and ask what this is about’ John suggested and as it was getting dark we agreed.
Nobody would tell us about the strange rail line, it was as if it never existed. We were only warned not to go near it. And the next day that is just what we did, we went back to investigate.
Earlier I had mentioned to the old I Proprietor that we were looking for some good skiing. ‘Used to be’ he had told me in his quiet slow voice, ‘but not no more, rich folks came once but not no more’ and he would not elaborate.
First thing was to get over the fence, then we tracked the railway line right up to the small tunnel, it was only small in width but when we looked inside it went for a long way into the mountain. When near what we judged, to be close to the other end, it was blocked by a boulder and a large amount of snow but a small shaft of light showed through the side.
The boys pushed at the boulder gradually moving it slowly out of the tunnel. We were surprised to find an old wooden carriage, sitting on what looked like a plat form. A huge wheel and cables going down into the tunnel.
The light outside was blinding and it took several moments before we could see. What a sight, the most beautiful skiing ground we had ever seen, with high mountains on most sides, wonderful ski slopes and a big ravine on the other.
Next day we came back with our skis, it was heaven. After a packed lunch we went to have a look around. There was a strange type of hill near the ravine. Something glowed in the sunlight. ‘Oh my gosh’ John uttered ‘I do believe it is a ring, and a diamond one’ We all crowded around him. ‘There may be more’ we all said at once and started searching. First we found a silver tray but it was too corroded, then a huge old stove, covered in rust and dirt.
Then Joshua spied a broken sign. ‘The Grand Alpine Hotel’, The next find from Fiona, was a small tin,Fiona opened it and found it contained a ladies diary. She paled as she read the name Ingrid De Lacey.
Fiona had been told the story of how her great auntie Ingrid had disappeared in Switzerland and never found. As she held the old diary she had a strange feeling come over her, this belonged to her Great Aunt. What did it mean? Here in her hands she held the truth of why the village kept this place hidden, something horrid had happened here. Perhaps the diary would tell the story.
It was the year of 1943 and war had torn the Baltic States apart, Adolph Hitler was on the march through Europe, but Switzerland had declared herself neutral.
Many of the aristocracy decided to take themselves out of the war zone. They loaded their jewellery and money into their cabin trunks and went over to Switzerland and safety.
Lady Chesham and her son Mark endured the dangerous sea journey and were now seated in a carriage of the small train that took them up the steep mountain, to the luxury hotel at Bredan in the Alps.
The noise of the clatter, clatter of the wheels over the rails, the slope of the carriage on the incline and the hardness of the wooden seats, made the journey most uncomfortable. Eventually they reached a thin tunnel cut into the rocks, an old lantern held the only light in the dark tunnel. It was a dismal journey but at the end was a wooden landing with a uniformed gentleman waiting to help them alight.
The Hotel stood proudly on a knoll surrounded by thick snow. There were lights in the large windows as the sky was overcast and through the wide glass doors of the front patio, could be seen the glow of a warm inviting log fire.
The party from the carriage walked up the steep steps and into a very pleasant and highly opulent foyer with an Italian marble floor and large oak desk, then to be shown to their rooms by the proprietress and a young bell boy who endeavoured to carry their luggage.
Mark, a man of perhaps in his early twenties, was not impressed with the older variety of patrons he saw sitting in the lounge that he had to pass and longed for the company of his young friends back home.
This was going to be a rotten and boring holiday, but better than being drafted into the Army back home, even though his uncle had promised to buy him a commission as an officer. He didn’t think this was possible nowadays, perhaps in the past. His uncle was quite old and thought everything could be bought.
He followed his mother into the suite that they would share, to find a young lady ready to unpack their luggage.
Well now this may not be as bad a place as it had first seemed. He smiled the smile that he knew worked on most of the women back home. One smile and they were his.
This was not the case with this young girl, she scowled back at him putting him quite off guard. He was not used to this kind of treatment from any girl especially a servant.
He would make a point of mentioning her behaviour to the proprietor. Mark was used to getting his own way. As a child he was left to the Nanny, his mother and father never had time for him, so he took no notice of what people told him and just did what he pleased.
Dinner was served in the dining room, a beautiful eighteenth century room, with large marble pillars reaching up to the high elaborately painted ceiling and linen lace table cloths gracing the rosewood dining tables. Silver shone next to the fine crystal goblets and a small vase held a perfect rose bud. A large Aspidistra sat on a pedestal in the corner.
Lady Chesham was enjoying her dinner when Mark appeared next to her. He seated himself and looked around the room. Old people met his gaze, but what was that, the back of a well dressed young woman. Her hair hung down her back but was caught on the top with a large diamond clip.
A diamond, she must be from a wealthy family, he must make her acquaintance.
He called to the waiter. ‘Who is the young lady at the table at the side of the room?’ he asked.
Bio: AA Anderson says this is a completely fictional story about a luxury hotel in the Alps.