The Mysterious Disappearance of Marsha Boden - Chapter 33
Who was Stephanie and why was she so interested in Lucy?
“Jeez, Lucy. Which planet are you on, or are you so coked-up you don’t know what day it is? Has Billie got to you already? Is that it?”
Sapphire’s stinging barbs shocked Lucy and she suddenly felt vulnerable and wanted more than anything to be back in Mudlowe in her small apartment and to shut herself away from the swirling cesspit of the world she had somehow become a part of.
“Billie’s my boyfriend and he’s brought me here on holiday,” she offered sheepishly in defence. Seeing the look on Sapphire’s face, she knew she was in for another tirade of insults and for a split second, she thought about getting up, walking out and making her way to the airport to get a flight home. Alone.
“Number one. Billie doesn’t have girlfriends. Number two. He uses the girls he recruits for various reasons to suit him. Number three. Wake up and smell the fucking coffee!” Sapphire’s Australian accent really shone through when she used bad language.
Lucy visibly winced. She was trying to process what Sapphire was saying but nothing was making any sense. Was she telling her that Billie was seeing other women? Her stomach dropped like an elevator with a failed mechanism and she thought she was going to throw up.
“Stephanie’s is a high-class escort agency with varying levels of entry, so to speak. The boutique out front is a cover, obviously, where women come to browse and then once their intentions are confirmed i.e. if they have been recommended by someone known to the lady who runs the show, then it’s through here to the next level. An interview, a few questions and voila! You’re on the books and set to go.” Sapphire flicked a curtain of straight blonde hair over her shoulder in a very affected manner, shaking her mane like a model in one of those glossy hair dye adverts.
The colour drained from Lucy’s face and even though she wanted to bolt for the door, she felt glued to the chair. “So, you work for Stephanie?”
“Oh no. Not me. I used to but then I graduated once I earned my stripes, so to speak. I’m independent but Steph has me on a retainer for a select few customers. In other words, the rich bastards who keep asking for me, get me. I have to drop whatever I’m doing and be at their beck and call.”
Lucy was astonished and her naivety was beginning to hit home. Her old life with Brian flashed before her and although dull and devoid of all the glitz and glamour she had recently experienced, she now realised that it was preferable to the world she had unwittingly become embroiled in. Like most things in life, it had its price tag.
“It pays extremely well and it’s a fabulous lifestyle. You get flown all around the world on private jets, stay on super-yachts and live the life of the uber-rich – well, for a short time, at least. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so to speak. For a start, your life’s not your own. I have no life. I got lured in and before I knew it, it was too late. I couldn’t get out. If you’ve got any sense, Lucy, you’ll make a dash for it now because once Steph gets her claws into you, there’s no going back.”
“Sapphire, darling! How lovely of you to swing by.” A heavily made-up woman in her mid to late sixties was sashaying towards them smoking a cigarette in the longest cigarette holder Lucy had ever seen - longer than the one in the iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys.
“Who’s this lovely creature?” she purred, lasciviously eyeing Lucy up and down. Her voice was thick and gravelly and she was wearing a flamboyant full-length robe with a matching rainbow-coloured turban and was dripping with gold and jewels.
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Lloyd recognised the handwriting on the small sheet of pretty stationery paper. It was Marsha’s. He couldn’t believe his eyes and his brain was telling him one thing, while his heart was telling him another. He never thought that he would see her again but, according to the letter he was holding in his quivering hands, she was alive. There was no date at the top, which he thought a little odd because she was a stickler for detail, but in the circumstances, she probably just forgot. The note read: “ My dearest Lloyd. Please forgive me. I have thought long and hard about what we talked about. It hasn’t been an easy decision, in fact, it has been one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Forgive me. I am going to stay with my husband and hope that we can remain friends, although I know that is going to be difficult for both of us. Look after yourself. Marsha.”
He felt bereft and had so many questions. Should he take the letter to the police? Where was Marsha? Had she gone into hiding because she feared his reaction? Nothing made any sense. He kept re-reading the letter, hoping for something to jump out at him, to give him a clue as to her whereabouts but the more he read it, the more confused he became. He checked the postmark but it was a generic stamp with no location on it. He pondered over when, way back, if you posted a letter in a certain town, it would be post-marked with the name of that town. He figured that the Royal Mail had moved with the times in protecting the privacy of its customers with Data Protection. His mind was wandering and touching the paper made him feel close to Marsha somehow. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt her presence through her written words. He looked again at the writing; it was definitely her handwriting.
Scraping the wooden kitchen chair back on the red quarry-tiled floor, he got up from the table and rummaged around in a drawer of one of the bespoke wooden kitchen cabinets. Fishing out a scrap of paper he compared the writing: it was the same. The note he found was from Marsha telling him that she had left some of his favourite walnut cake from Tiddy’s in the cake tin in the pantry for him. She was such a kind, thoughtful person. Having re-read the note about the cake, he felt even more confused about the contents of the letter saying that she had changed her mind about being with him.
What the hell was going on?
To be continued.
I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment about the story so far. What do you think has happened to Marsha?
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.