One of the strangest keys in Halden's collection was the key to a Cardiff hotel room. He had bought this key at an auction. It was embedded into the cover of a small book which contained probably the strangest tale, you are ever likely to hear. Yet, it all began simply enough with an overnight stay in Cardiff.


It was the evening of March 18. The next day would see one of the most important games in the history of Welsh rugby. Wales had already won a first Grand Slam earlier in the decade and were now on course for a record breaking second Grand Slam. But between them and glory was match against arch-rivals France. Wales had beaten France before and confidence was high. The one problem was that this game was to be played in France, and winning in the Parc des Princes had eluded the Welsh princes for many a year. Like thousands of other Welsh fans I'd come down to Cardiff the night before the game. Unlike the others who could but hope for a spare, or resign themselves to watching the game in the bar, I actually had a ticket for the big game, as well as a plane ticket flying out of Rhoose airport early next morning. Not that I was admitting it to anyone. It would have been more than my life was worth. But I did join the others for the traditional pub crawl sing-song as we made our way around the town publicising our love for Wales and our confidence that we would put all-comers at our feet before the season was out.

I turned into my hotel room well after midnight and was soon sound asleep, having placed a wake-up call for 7 a.m. the next morning. I can't say when exactly the visitation came, and to be quite honest, for a long time I doubted even that it had come, but as the days and weeks went on, my doubts evaporated before the indisputable changes in my life. All I can remember was talking in my half-sleep to a man who stepped into my room and left a newspaper. It would be this newspaper that would make my fortune. What he looked like, who he was, where he was from, and above all, why he had picked on me, remained unanswered questions. Indeed, by the time my wake-up call came, I had completely forgotten all about the visitation. And yet, there was the newspaper he had promised me.

Despite my wake-up call, I was late, so I just tossed it into my bag on my way out of the room. It wasn't until I was safely seated in the plane that I took it out and started perusing it. So it wasn't until then that I realised something very strange had happened. This wasn't today's newspaper, at all. It was tomorrow's. I read through a number of sections, glancing at the headlines, all of which confirmed my first impression. How on earth had I got hold of tomorrow's newspaper, and more importantly, how could I be sure, that what it announced, was actually the truth. Up until now, I had resisted the temptation to flick to the back page and find out the result of the game. But resist I could no longer. It just wasn't in me. France 7 - Wales 16 it proudly announced, in both Welsh and English. The boys had done it. They had beaten the French on their own turf and captured that second Grand Slam.

It was only now that I thought of the possibility of turning my knowledge into a fortune. I could place a bet on the game. It was a certainty. I had the result before me. How could I lose? And yet, could I trust the paper? Was this not simply an elaborate hoax being played on me, to ruin me? On the other hand who would want to play such a hoax on me? It wasn't as if I was so rich, they wanted to bring me down a peg or two. And even if one of my friends were just pulling my leg, how did they manage to set up such a thing?

The thought went back and forth in my mind and soon formed one of the longest rallies in the tennis world. It was ended decisively when the captain announced, we would soon be coming into to land in Paris. The ball was in the "risk it" court. My mind was made up.

As soon as I got out of the airport, I searched for a bookmaker. He took my cheque without a blink of the eye. £ 5 000 - all I had. Everything on one pretty outside bet. That was my hope, because even if the stake was small, the odds would multiply my winnings. As for the bookmaker he probably thought it was easy money gained. Mind you, I wasn't in the least bit sorry to disappoint him some 5 hours later when I returned to claim my winnings. Wales had won 7-16. It was only now that I realised that in predicting the actual score my winnings were far larger than I could ever have imagined. I was a made man.

Well, celebrations went on until very late that night, so I had only been back in my room some five minutes when my mysterious visitor put in another appearance. I tried thanking it, and probing it with all sorts of questions. It didn't utter a word. It just left another newspaper. One glance sufficed. It was again tomorrow's newspaper. It was the eve of a famous Paris horse race, so first thing in the morning, I went out and placed all my winnings on the race, predicting this time the first three, in their finishing order. My winnings ran close to £1 000 000.

It was now I started to worry. I had always dreamt of breaking into society. Now I had the means to do so. But what if I never again saw my mysterious friend. Added to that was the fact making my fortune through gambling was hardly - as Lady Bracknell would say - conducive to gaining a recognised place in good society. I would have to change my profession. But what could I do, that would enable me to make good use of my advanced knowledge, without sacrificing my position. It was only when early Monday morning I got Tuesday's newspaper that I hit upon my idea. The Stock Market. That was the solution. The paper was full of financial news, little else having happened the previous day. That was what I'd do. I'd speculate, buying and selling stocks and making a huge profit. Call it gambling, if you like. Indeed, it probably was gambling. But wearing a black suit, top hat and going into the city every day with a dark umbrella, made it acceptable gambling. I had, at last, found my way in life.

My rise was meteoric. With my visitor how could it have been otherwise. Of course, I often tried to engage it into conversation. I wrote long letters, which I left on the table, I asked for a visiting card. But whatever I did, the being remained silent. And every morning I had but a vague recollection of its ever being there. But, as if to prove my doubts wrong, there was the newspaper, folded nicely into two, for me to read. Within a few weeks I was one of the richest stock-brokers in the country. Journalists phoned me up, begging me for interviews. Everyone wanted to know the secret of my success. I smiled gently and put it all down to intuition. I must have received more from my mother at my birth than from my father.

I began to get invitations of all sorts. I was to be seen in the best of houses, and was soon declared to be one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. The world was at my feet, and many a young lady too. And even my great indiscretion of announcing my engagement didn't change things. Suddenly I had gone from great favourite to public enemy number one, because 99.9 % of those mothers who were throwing their daughters at me, no longer had any hope.

Yes, I met my beloved at a big society ball. She was not one of those rich, young girls I had grown so scornful of. She was a simple governess to one of the country's greatest families. Yet, her beauty took my breath away. The moment I first set my eyes on her, I knew we were destined for each other. Our courtship was short, leaving little time for the press to discover what was going on before the announcement was made. And once made public the marriage would soon follow.

This, dear reader, is my mysterious and remarkable story. I am to be married tomorrow and I am spending my last night as a bachelor in that very same hotel room where my story began. Anita is waiting for me in a secret location, far away from the eyes of the world's press. The announcement of our marriage will not be released until several hours after the ceremony, when we are safely hidden away on an island paradise for our honeymoon.

Tonight, a strange thing happened. Determined to get one last try at discovering who my mysterious benefactor was, I determined to stay awake and confront him. With all my wits about me, I could surely force him to speak. He came at about 2.30 a.m. and despite all my efforts refused to answer even one of my questions. He just came into the room , folded the newspaper, and turned towards me. With tears in his eyes, he bowed slightly and said "Good Bye" before slipping slowly out of my presence.

I bounded over to the newspaper, convinced that the announcement of our wedding would make front page news. There was nothing there. I flicked through the other pages - nothing at all. It was only when I got to page nine that the following headline grabbed my attention:

Leading society figure found dead in Cardiff hotel room.


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