As a relative stranger to Shotley Gate, I was uncertain of the whereabouts of Marsh Lane. My initial reaction therefore was to return to the pub and seek directions. In fact this proved unnecessary. A matter of yards from my car, by the waterfront at the foot of Bristol Hill, stands an information board featuring a map of the immediate area. I checked the display, and to my disappointment found it to be aimed primarily at walkers, and thus for the most part devoid of street names. I scanned it nonetheless, and was surprised to see Marsh Lane marked. More unexpected still came the revelation that I appeared to be more familiar with this location than I could have anticipated: according to this map, the footpath I had taken from the main road to the marina, following the northern edge of the Ganges site, was named Marsh Lane.
Whether Marlin was aware of the route I had traversed an hour previously, and thus had taken it for granted that I would know of the location to which he referred, or whether he had merely counted on my discovery of the map nearby, I cannot say. Whatever the case, I felt a strong sense of manipulation, which only succeeded in heightening my apprehension, and indeed fear. Nevertheless, I resolved to continue.
Marsh Lane was situated no more than a quarter of a mile away, yet I elected to take my car. I felt an impatience to make the journey in seconds rather than minutes, and perhaps too a certain sense of safety in this choice. I drove the short distance up the main road, and parked outside the row of houses in Visdelou Terrace, at the top of Marsh Lane. The sun had long since set, and being no more than a footpath, the lane was unlit. I took a torch from the boot of my car, and ensured my dictaphone was in working order, before secreting it in my jacket pocket. Considering myself to be headed for an interview rather than a photo opportunity, and with the added disincentive of darkness, I chose not to take my camera. This would prove to be the biggest single mistake of my investigation.
Marsh Lane appeared not to be labelled as such. A sign declared it to be a public footpath, but there was no visible form of identification beyond this. For the second time that evening I began to make my way down the path, somehow a more sinister place with the absence of light. The fence of HMS Ganges lay to my right. To my left I passed the rear gates of a small number of houses, barely visible behind trees and wooden fences. I was unsure of the location of Marlin's "red brick house", yet I felt it unlikely to be amongst these, which were in fact located in the neighbouring Gate Farm Road, and merely backed onto Marsh Lane to the south.
Having reached the end of this row, and the fork in the path, I was beginning to question this assumption. Faced with nothing but the darkness of a farmer's field ahead of me, I felt I had surely missed the 'house' to which I was being directed. My pace slowing as doubts filled my mind, I was suddenly hit with the realisation of my intended target. An hour earlier I had passed a small brick building further down this lane at the point where the two diverging paths converged once more. It remained out of sight at the present time, yet it surely had to be the "red brick house" to which Marlin had alluded.
And so it proved. With renewed enthusiasm, I continued on, the light from my torch assisted now by the considerable glow emanating from Felixstowe docks opposite. Within two minutes I found myself approaching the brick building. There was no immediate sign of anyone in attendance, no sound, and indeed no light. The location was quiet. Uncomfortably so.
The building itself measures approximately six metres by four, and was partially obscured from view by a wall of undergrowth which had been allowed to spread unchecked around its base. Though close to the Ganges fence, the structure is positioned outside of this boundary, and the only obstacle to access remains that provided by Mother Nature. As a certain anxiety began to grow within me, I made my way around to the side of the building.
The eastern wall features a single window, both blacked out and barred. Intriguingly, a hole had been smashed in the top right hand corner, yet at a height too great to afford a view inside. No light appeared to come from within. Forcing a path through the undergrowth, I continued on and arrived at a door on the southern side.
The door was closed, and featured a sign declaring the structure to be the property of Eastern Electricity. With an irony I preferred not to acknowledge, the notice discouraged entry with three simple words: 'DANGER OF DEATH'. It appeared an apt choice of venue for Marlin. A padlock hung from a steel bar which had served to secure this, the building's only entrance. But no more. The padlock had been crudely sawn through, and now hung in vain from the clasp. As Marlin's note stated, the door had indeed been opened.
I paused for a moment in silence. Hearing nothing, I reached forward and pulled the door towards me.
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