The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden - Chapter 32
Lloyd pulled out a single sheet of paper. As he started to read the letter, his hands started to shake and he could not believe his eyes.
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Lloyd Peterson was sitting in his wing-back chair by the sitting room window and just could not settle. He had lost the woman that he loved and now, within the space of a few short weeks, his close friend and helper, Bert Humble, had left him too. He couldn’t stop thinking about the tragic way that Bert had met his end when a juggernaut had ploughed into him as he crossed the High Street in Little Twichen. Swirling a generous measure of Jameson whisky around a heavy tumbler in his work-worn hand, he looked out across the fields to the valley beyond. Autumn had burnished the trees with a golden-bronzed hue and the sheep were huddled together under the big oak in the middle of the top field. He was losing interest in the farm and hadn’t realised how much he enjoyed Bert’s company. They would often walk and chat as they navigated knobbly tree roots sticking out from the earth, or perch on the low stone wall by the gate and reminisce about times gone by. They never seemed to be in a hurry. Not like the youngsters today.
His thoughts turned to Marsha when he heard the Gregory Porter song playing softly in the background, “Hey Laura,” and he suddenly felt overcome with sadness. Not so long ago his parents were alive and the three of them had lived in frenetic harmony working the farm, tending the stock, each day the same old grind, but at least the days had a purpose. Seasons would come and go but life went on. Marsha had lit up his life and he thought they would live in harmony, on the farm, and life would be good. Now he was on his own and he was beginning to wonder what the purpose of his life was or even whether it had one at all now.
The following morning he woke up with a heavy heart and a throbbing headache, but nothing that a couple of Paracetamols and a strong coffee couldn’t cure. The heartache would take a lot longer to heal, if at all. As he cleared his breakfast things away, he heard a vehicle pull up on the farmyard and wondered who it could be, then realised that it was only the postman. He went out to collect the mail in the hope of having a chat with the postie.
“Loov-lee die!” The chubby young woman, dressed in a red tee-shirt and grey shorts, had a thick black country accent and her voice was really deep; she handed him a bundle of colourful flyers and turned on her heel.
“Aye. Thanks for that,” he said sarcastically, lifting the bunch of brochures and pamphlets which the postwoman knew would end up in the bin, but she had to deliver them anyway. She dived back into the vehicle and almost spun the wheels in her haste to get away, hardly taking time to close the door as she went.
Lloyd stood on the farmyard holding the bundle of papers and watched as small puffs of dust skittered up behind the red Royal Mail van as it bounced its way along the long, narrow farm track. He watched until it was out of sight, breathing in the air, drawing deep lungs full, savouring the sweetness of the grass, the autumnal tinge sending a shiver down his spine, the sound of the sheep, their bleating the soundtrack of his life. His head drooped to his chest as he turned and went back inside to start sifting through the junk mail. There was a bill from Severn Trent Water, which made his eyes water, and a bank statement that he didn’t bother to open. He knew he had plenty in there and besides, he used the First Direct Banking app, so the statement was out of date as far as he was concerned. He opted to have paper statements from his bank because he had to keep meticulous records for his Accountant and it saved him printing them out - ink for the printer was expensive. He would file the statement away in a grey ring binder when he was in an ‘admin mood,’ as his mother used to say.
He almost missed the small white envelope tucked between a pizza parlour flyer and a glossy brochure advertising the new Meadow Bank development. It was handwritten and had a stamp on it. Curious, he slit it open with the letter-opening knife his father had used for as long as he could remember, and pulled out a single sheet of paper. As he started to read the letter, his hands started to shake and he could not believe his eyes.
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