The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden - Chapter 31
Perhaps Zelda just needed time to get used to the idea. But that was the trouble. Kate didn’t have time.
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Kate sat nervously on a bench overlooking the town of Mudlowe. It was early evening and there was a chill in the air; she lifted her coat collar and wrapped her coat tighter around herself. She scanned the view; the square tower of the medieval Church in the distance, the clusters of houses, some of which had wisps of smoke coming out of their chimneys, the fields in the surrounding area which were taking on a golden hue as summer faded into Autumn. She looked at her watch; the person she was meeting was due to arrive in five minutes. Taking out a packet of Benson & Hedges that she usually kept in her bedside cabinet for times of stress, she could barely ignite the tip because her hands were shaking so badly. Taking a long drag and inhaling deeply she felt herself calming down and wondered how her life could have gone so badly wrong. A few years ago she and Nigel had been so happy. They both had solid careers and their future looked bright. Now he was dead and she had some pressing issues to attend to.
“Are you the doctor’s wife?”
She looked behind her and a confident, smartly-dressed young woman approached the bench where she was sitting.
“Widow", she corrected. “Take a seat. Want one?” She offered the packet of cigarettes but the woman declined.
“What’s all this about?” the woman asked curtly.
“I’m being threatened and I need police protection.”
“Slow down. You’ll have to explain. Why didn’t you just come down to the station and ask to speak to someone?” PC Della Carlton shifted uncomfortably on the cold bench.
Kate shook her head in disbelief. “Why do you think? Because I’m being watched. My life is in danger. My family’s too.” She inhaled deeply on her cigarette and stared out across the vista, wishing the earth would swallow her up.
“You do realise there is a whole process that we have to go through, don’t you? We can’t just whisk you off to a safe house. We need your assurance that you will testify in court once we bring the perpetrator to justice.”
“That’s not gonna happen,” Kate spat, sarcastically. “You just don’t get it, do you? I have a target on my head and unless you can offer me witness protection, I can’t go on living my life. I have to protect my family.” The helplessness of her situation suddenly overwhelmed her and she broke down, sobbing uncontrollably.
Steven Bevan was driving home from a twelve-hour shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney when the call came through.
“Calm down. What the hell is going on?” He pulled off the freeway and managed to get the caller to explain what was going on. He pulled up into a Betty’s Burgers car park, which was unusually quiet for this time of day, and was laser-focused on what Kate was saying.
“Okay, okay. Just keep calm. Tell Mum and Dad that you’re staying with us for an extended holiday because of all the stress of what happened with Nigel. They’ll buy that. Jesus Christ, Kate. What the hell have you got yourself mixed up in? No, don’t answer that.”
Kate explained that the police had thought it best she leave the UK for a while until they could get everything organised for the witness protection programme and they would find somewhere for her, Zelda and the boys to stay, but it would take a few weeks to sort out.
“Call me when you’re settled. I’ll come and see you and the boys - I can’t risk you coming anywhere near my family.” He ended the call abruptly and Kate felt utterly crushed.
Zelda had been expecting a Thai takeaway and had even poured two glasses of wine when she heard Kate’s car pull up on the drive. She had not expected to have the bombshell of packing up and going to Australia for an indeterminate amount of time dropped on her from a great height.
“Whoa! I didn’t sign up for this, Kate. You don’t seriously expect me to drop everything and follow you to the other side of the world, do you?”
Kate looked crestfallen. “But, I thought..”
“Thought what? That we had something good going between us? That we agreed to sell this place and my house in Mudlowe, which is completing next week, by the way, in case you hadn’t remembered, and we were going to move into one of the new houses at Meadow Bank. The one we have already put a deposit on and bought off-plan. Remember? What the fuck, Kate?”
Kate had never seen Zelda so angry. “It’ll only be for a few weeks, Zeld,” she ventured trying to make amends, desperate for some moral support.
Zelda shook her head in disbelief and slammed her half-full glass of wine down on the kitchen worktop and stomped off, grabbing her bag and car keys as she went and slammed the door behind her.
Kate put her head in her hands and cried; her heart felt like a lead weight in her chest. This wasn’t how it was supposed to work out. She had thought that Zelda would want to go with her and the boys and start a new life together, just as they had talked about so often. Perhaps she just needed time to get used to the idea. But that was the trouble. She didn’t have time.
Brian Jamison had been a diligent and hard-working employee and ever since Marsha’s disappearance, he had shown his true mettle. He didn’t ask questions but instead took orders from his boss, Guy Boden, and his colleagues without hesitation. One day, he hoped to be able to build a business just like Boden’s Funeral Directors. When he accidentally saw a spreadsheet open on Mrs Jones’ computer, he was even more determined to set up on his own but in the meantime, he was determined to learn as much as he could and pick up on the nuances of running a Funeral Director’s business.
He heard on the grapevine that Lucy had got mixed up with Billie Tidmarsh and he was surprised that she didn’t know better. Everybody knew that Billie was a bad boy and it was common knowledge that he was a drug dealer. What was Lucy thinking?
“Brian! Have you finished washing the cars yet?”
“Yes, Mr Boden. We’re all ready for the off at eleven o’clock.”
“Good lad. Good lad. You can drive today. It’s about time you earned your keep around here. Remember: keep her steady and slow.”
Brian was over the moon. He never thought he would see the day when he could actually drive a hearse. He didn’t know who he had on board but that wasn’t important. It was somebody’s mother, wife, aunt or sister and he would do his best to deliver her to the crematorium with grace and skill. The small spray of pink and white flowers on the coffin was quite overpowering and he was glad he didn’t suffer from hay fever. Feeling quite nervous when the time came, he was glad to have Mr Boden by his side.
“You know my rules, Brian. No talking on the way to a funeral. Respect for the dead and all that.” He was fidgeting and seemed on edge.
“Yes, Mr Boden,” he replied, nudging the huge car gently out onto the main road. He had never driven an automatic before; it was so easy and like sitting in an armchair - it was that comfortable. He kept his eyes straight ahead and periodically checked his rear view mirror. There were no cars following on today. It happened like that occasionally, if the family couldn’t afford to hire extra cars or sometimes, like today he assumed, the poor deceased person had hardly any mourners to attend their funeral. He always thought that was so sad and even though he was only in his twenties, he wondered how many people would bother to pay him their last respects. Not many, he countered.
When they pulled up outside Peace Haven Cemetery twenty minutes or so later, Mr Boden said, “As soon as we’ve taken the coffin inside, Brian, I would like you to go straight back to the yard and wait for me there. We’ve got a very big funeral this afternoon at three o’clock. I’ll get a lift back with Mr Peasbody. You get on and make sure all the cars are gleaming and ready to go.”
Brian didn’t question him but did as he was told. “Yes, Mr Boden.” Secretly, he was pleased he was able to drive back to Little Twichen on his own. He even put the radio on really loud and tuned in to Radio 1. Mr Boden would have been furious but he didn’t care. There were no dead people in the back to disrespect.
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.