The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden
Hello friend and welcome back.
Thank you for following the serialization of my novel. I hope I have been able to keep you entertained along the way as we near the final stages of the story.
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“What’s that behind you?” Lucy asked as she shifted her laptop around on the old-fashioned dressing table, trying to position her image in the centre of the screen.
“That is the Burj Al-Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. Where the bloody hell have you been hiding?” Sapphire’s Australian accent seemed stronger than ever and Lucy watched in amazement as her friend panned around with her mobile phone from a magnificent rooftop terrace surrounded by skyscrapers and buildings that Lucy had only ever seen in films or magazines.
“Ah, I can see it now!” Lucy exclaimed. “It looks amazing! How are you?”
“I’m chipper, Lucy, absolutely bloody chipper! I’ve got so much to tell ya. Are ya sittin’ comfortably?”
Lucy smiled as she watched her friend animatedly walk around the terrace, showing her the spectacular fountains beneath The Address Hotel, which was where, she informed her, she was enjoying a sundowner.
“My God, Saff! It looks awesome!”
“Not only is it awesome here, dear friend, but it is also warm and sultry and I have met so many great people. You’ll love it here – it’ll do you good to leave the cold and wet of England behind ya, not to mention everything else.”
“So, what’s the news?!” Lucy asked excitedly like a schoolgirl who couldn’t wait to go on her first ever school trip.
“Right, well, I’ve been making inquiries and I have a few contacts – always important.” She stopped talking to take a sip of her cocktail. “They have put me in touch with a few of their contacts. You know how it works. Anyway, by the time you get your skinny little arse out here – how much weight have you lost, by the way?”
“Carry on! Never mind about me,” Lucy shouted at the screen.
“Well, this time next week, I should have us up and running so to speak as per our discussion, but we need to sort out a visa for you, which could take some time”.
Lucy’s heart sank. “I don’t have time, Saff. I’ve booked my flight and arranged to let my flat out.”
“Don’t panic, honey, jump on that plane and tell them you’re coming to Dubai for a holiday. You can stay with me and then when your visa comes through, you can hop on a flight to Qatar and then re-enter Dubai on a work permit.”
Lucy was lost; Saff was talking double dutch but she was thankful that her friend had a handle on things, just as she knew that she would.
“So tell me,” Saff said, taking a long sip of her drink. “How are ya?”
“Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I get there. I’ve been for counselling this morning and my GP has put me on antidepressants and when I told her about my plans to live and work in Dubai, she seemed to think it would do me good. Obviously, I will have to get some health care sorted as soon as I get there so I can get my prescriptions sorted.”
“Yeah, don’t worry about any of that. It’s all a lot easier out here than it is back there. I can’t wait to see ya!”
“Me too. Thanks, Saff. You’re such a good friend.”
“Ah, don’t mention it. You’re gonna have to work your arse off though. Real estate is a dog-eat-dog industry here, but we’ll manage. Two savvy women like us, it’ll be a piece o’ piss.”
Lucy giggled and realised it had been the first time in ages that she had actually laughed out loud.
Reluctantly ending the Zoom call with Saff, she lay on the bed and fell into a deep sleep. It must have been the tension of the past few days easing out of her because when she woke at six o’clock the following morning, still fully clothed and on top of the bed, she felt as fresh as a daisy.
Sitting at the breakfast table by seven-thirty, having showered and changed, she listened to Mrs Jones regaling stories about previous guests and in particular, a young couple who had argued and ended up breaking off their engagement.
“There were a lot of tears, my lovely,” she told Lucy, handing her a mug of piping hot strong tea, just how she liked it. “But it was better they realised sooner rather than later. Breakfast won’t be long. One egg or two?” she asked, turning back to the Rayburn.
“Oh, one please,” Lucy replied, sipping her tea.
“You need feeding up. Another egg won’t hurt you, my lovely. Here you go,” and she placed a full English breakfast fit for a king in front of Lucy.
“There’s plenty of toast there,” she sang out in her Welsh accent, pointing a podgy finger to a plate on the table, laden with thick slices of toasted home-made bread, “or I can do you some fried bread if you prefer?”
“No, this is absolutely fine, thank you.”
The smell of frying bacon enticed Mr Jones into the kitchen, who entered rubbing his huge hands together in glee. “You can’t beat a good breakfast, can you?” he announced gleefully, marching purposefully towards the sink. He was in his stockinged feet and was wearing jeans and a brown checked shirt and as he washed his hands, Lucy caught a waft of cow dung.
Mrs Jones placed a gigantic plateful of eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread in front of her husband and he tucked in eagerly, devouring half the plate before Lucy had even made a dent in hers, but as she savoured every mouthful of the delicious breakfast, she figured that she needed the energy to put in motion the last two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which she had to slot into place before making her grand exit.
The Coroner recorded a verdict of suicide at the inquest into Nigel Bursford’s death. Kate had found the whole experience harrowing, having to re-live that terrible day, minute by minute. She was grateful to her parents for accompanying her and would not have been able to get through the ordeal without them. A neighbour was looking after the boys for her and feeling utterly exhausted, she headed home afterwards in a daze. First the letter from Zelda, then the interviews and finally the inquest. She could have done without any of them, let alone all three of them on the same day. But at least the day was almost over and she had been exonerated of any blame for her husband’s suicide. She pushed the gruesome image out of her mind for the umpteenth time that day and knew that even though she was worn out, sleep would elude her.
As soon as she stepped in through the door of The Granary, she felt uneasy. Was Nigel’s ghost haunting her? The same feeling of uneasiness washed over her as when she had walked into the kitchen that fateful day and spotted the half-empty bottle of vodka on the worktop. Depositing her handbag on one of the barstools at the island, she flicked on the overhead lights.
“Boys! Are you here?” she called out. Then she saw a shadow in the doorway of the snug, the small sitting room just off the kitchen. The room where Nigel had killed himself.
“Hello Kate. Long time no see.” She would have recognised that voice anywhere.
“How the hell did you get in here?!”
“That’s the last question you should be asking me. What you should really be asking me is, ‘What do you want?’
Suddenly, she was re-living that horrible day and everything came flooding back. She felt as though she was having an out-of-body experience and wondered if this was really happening or if it had been such a long day that her mind was playing tricks on her.
“What do you want?’ she asked through clenched teeth, her voice loaded with anger. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough to this family already? Taken a father away from two boys and left his wife a widow. What more do you want?” she was screaming now, the hatred and vitriol spilling out of her like a lanced boil.
“Calm down, Kate,” the intruder said with a menacing look on his face. “I just wanted to see where Nigel blew his brains out.”
“You evil bastard!” she spat at him.
“Now, now, Katie. You need to watch that mouth of yours.” He moved closer, so close she could smell his expensive aftershave.
To be continued.
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.