The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden
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I hope you have enjoyed reading my novel as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
The final chapter will appear on Wednesday.
Christmas fever was spreading through Little Twichen and when Lucy rang her parents to let them know how she was doing, that’s all her mother could talk about – how she wasn’t going to be there this year. It was the last thing Lucy needed - a maudlin mother.
“Why don’t you and Dad come out here for Christmas?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! They don’t celebrate it out there. Do they?”
“We don’t have room for you here at our place but I can ask around to see if I can find a good deal for you both. It wouldn’t be the same as back home but sometimes, Mum, a change is as good as a rest.”
“I’ll have to talk to your father, dear. Here, I’ll put him on. You look after yourself and keep in touch, do you hear me?”
Lucy put the suggestion to her father and he said he couldn’t think of anything better. ‘Some lovely sunshine, a change of scenery and avoiding all the hype that goes on over the silly season.’
“Everybody goes mad! Even though the country’s in recession, people still spend hundreds of pounds on gifts they can’t afford and food prices have gone through the roof. I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince your mother but I’ll see what I can do.”
Lucy thanked her father for being the go-between and peace-maker. She didn’t know what she would do without him. She filled him in on her life in Dubai so far and told him how well things were going; he could tell from her voice that she was happy. He had been seriously concerned about her and was relieved when she had broken the news about working abroad. He knew it would suit her and if he had his time over again, he would have travelled more. You only live once, he thought sardonically, heading to his study to do some research for holidays in Dubai. He was determined to make up for lost time.
Miss Moorcroft had tried every trick in the book to wriggle out of the Santa Express experience, but Kate was having none of it. When the day arrived, she even thought about feigning illness but had a sudden onset of guilt. With all that Kate had been through, the least she could do was to accompany her on a day out with her boys.
When they arrived at Telford Steam Railway station, she discovered that she had booked The Polar Express and some of the other passengers were wearing pyjamas…the whole scenario was completely alien to her and she was quite overwhelmed, so she let Kate take the lead, preferring instead to sit in the warm, comfortable carriage she had especially reserved for just the four of them.
Settling down next to the window, Miss Moorcroft had forgotten how much she enjoyed train journeys. Kate brought her a cup of hot chocolate in one of those horrible paper cups, which she carefully placed on her side table, before her friend checked several times that she was happy to stay in the carriage on her own.
“Are you sure I can’t tempt you to come and see inside Hero Boy’s bedroom?” Kate asked with a wicked grin. She was wearing an expensive navy suede coat with grey fur trim and elegant black boots.
The look on Helena’s face told Kate everything she needed to know and she quietly slid the carriage door closed behind her, leaving Miss Moorcroft to enjoy the scenery as the steam train pulled slowly out of the station, leaving her to her thoughts in quiet solitude.
“Can you spot any items in the room that you saw in the film?” Kate asked her wide-eyed boys as they stood in awe looking at the scene before them.
“When can we see Father Christmas, Mummy? When can we see Father Christmas, Mummy? When can we see Father Christmas, Mummy?”
“Chase! How many times have I told you? You only need to ask me a question once. Do you understand?”
Kate knelt beside her youngest son and hugged him. With the impending move to Wysteria Cottage, which was scheduled to take place early in the New Year, she had put the appointment with her GP practice back. She would follow it up at the first opportunity because she had an inkling that something wasn’t right.
“Come on! Let’s go and see the elves and the reindeer!” Robbie shouted, grabbing Chase’s hand.
“Not so fast, young man,” Kate admonished. She sometimes felt that Robbie’s exuberance was too much for Chase to handle.
“We can all go and see the elves and reindeer when we’re finished here. And then, if we’re very good, we get to see Father Christmas!”
Chase’s eyes lit up as his mother addressed the words to him and he seemed happy to tag along with his big brother.
By the time Kate and the boys arrived back in the carriage, Miss Moorcroft had managed to have a quick snooze after drinking her hot chocolate.
“We saw Father Christmas!” Robbie and Chase announced as they bounded over to her.
“Oh, my goodness! Did you get a present?”
“Yes, but Mummy says we have to keep them to open on Christmas Day.”
“Ah, well in that case, look what I found in my bag.”
The boys leaned in to see Miss Moorcroft lift out two small parcels neatly wrapped in red and green paper with reindeer leaping all over it. Their eyes lit up and Helena looked at Kate to see if it was alright for them to open them there and then. She nodded, smiled and shook her head.
“You shouldn’t have…”
“Oh, it’s just a small thank you…”
The boys were delighted with their Lego Super Robot toys, both identical, so there would be no arguments.
“Now, I suppose we had better make our way to the buffet carriage for some mince pies,” Miss Moorcroft announced cheerily.
“Yeah!” the boys shouted, jumping up and down, even though neither of them liked mince pies.
“And,” Kate added, looking across at Miss Moorcroft who was still sitting by the window with a tartan blanket across her knees, “We mustn’t forget to join in with the carol singing afterward.”
Miss Moorcroft smiled back. She had, quite surprisingly, enjoyed the day out with the young family. Having had time to reflect while Kate had kept the boys amused on the train, she had one last surprise up her sleeve. It was especially for Kate to repay her for all the kindness she had shown her over the last few weeks. Besides, she had nobody else to spend her money on. Her Civil Service pension built up in her bank account at a far quicker rate than she was able to spend it. This Christmas Day was going to be extra special and even she was looking forward to it.
CS Clive Daniels was as perplexed as the residents of Little Twichen about what had happened to Marsha Boden. There was still no sign of her and other than the letter that Mr Peterson had received, the trail as to her whereabouts had gone cold. He was grateful to two members of the community, both female, who had come forward and assisted in providing evidence to ensure that William Tidmarsh and Alexander Best would find difficult to deny. They would be tried in the summer of 2023 and until then, both would be detained at His Majesty’s pleasure. He was delighted that these two crooks had been banged up which had come about as a direct result of Mrs Boden’s disappearance. Having worked as a bookkeeper in Mudlowe, the police had been able to trace a money laundering ring back to the two men. There was still a long way to go with collecting evidence for the trial, but he was optimistic that the CPS would bring a case against them and he would do his absolute best to see that they did.
He had his own theory about what had happened to Marsha Boden but theories without evidence were of no use whatsoever. He of all people knew that.
To be continued.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places, events and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.