فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

Murder at the old farm

A week later there was another surprise, and this time they had a row. It was the worst row since they had got married. They got home, as usual, at six o’clock. Rick went into the living room. ‘Marilyn,’ he said, ‘what’s this?’

The ashtray, which was usually on the shelf near the radio, was on the coffee table. A cigarette end was in the ashtray.

‘Who’s been here?’ said Rick.

Marilyn picked up the ashtray. ‘Look, Rick,’ she said, ‘you told me that you had stopped smoking. You know that I don’t like smoking.’

‘It’s not mine,’ he said. ‘I haven’t had a cigarette for more than two years. Have you been home today?’

‘No, I haven’t,’ she said. ‘But somebody has. I’ve never smoked. You know that.’

She picked up the cigarette end. There was red lipstick on it. She showed it to Rick.

‘A woman’s been here,’ she said. ‘What’s happening, Rick? Who is she?’

‘A woman ghost that smokes Marlboro cigarettes,’ he said.

‘It isn’t funny, Rick,’ she said. She went to the door. ‘I’m going out for a walk. Don’t come with me. I want to think.’

Marilyn walked along Balmoral Avenue. All the houses were the same. They had all been built two years before. She walked round the corner into Osborne Way. There was one older house at the end of Osborne Way. It had been there before the estate was built. An old man was working in the garden.

‘Good evening,’ said Marilyn.

‘Good evening,’ he replied. ‘It’s a lovely evening, isn’t it?’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Er… have you lived here for a long time?’

‘Oh, yes, my dear,’ he said. ‘I’ve been living here for thirty years.’

‘Do you remember the old farm… the one that used to be here before the estate was built?’

‘High Trees Farm? Of course I do. I used to work there.’ The old man walked over to her.

‘Who lived there?’ said Marilyn.

‘Why are you interested in High Trees Farm?’ he said. ‘You’re from one of the new houses, aren’t you?’

‘Er, yes,’ said Marilyn. ‘I’m very interested in history… the history of this area.’

‘Well, the farm belonged to old Giles Varley. He lived there by himself - since his wife died, that is. He was a strange man. Nobody liked him very much. I didn’t. He used to be a very difficult boss, you see. Everything had to be in the right place. “Don’t put that on the shelf!” he used to say to me. “Put it in the cupboard!” And the house… I’ve never seen a place as clean and tidy as that house. His wife had always been a very tidy woman, and he wanted to keep the house the same. Yes, poor old Varley.’

‘What happened to him?’ said Marilyn.

‘Don’t you remember?’ said the old man. ‘It was in all the newspapers six or seven years ago.’

‘We didn’t live in Sandbourne then,’ said Marilyn.

‘It was sad,’ he said, ‘very sad. They never found the murderer, either.’

‘The murderer?’ said Marilyn.

‘That’s right. He was murdered in the old farmhouse. A robber, that’s what the police thought. I found the body, you know.’

Marilyn felt suddenly cold. ‘I see,’ she said. Well, thank you. It’s been very interesting.’

‘Good night, then,’ said the old man. Marilyn turned round and walked home very slowly.

When she got home, Rick was in the garden. They had bought a small tree at the weekend, and Rick was putting it in the front garden. He called to her.

‘Marilyn! Come here. Look at this!’

She walked over to him. There was a hole in the ground for the tree. There were a lot of old bricks in the hole.

‘So,’ he said, ‘there was a building here before they built this house. Do you think it was the old farmhouse?’

Marilyn felt cold. ‘Rick,’ she said, ‘come inside. We’ll have a cup of tea. I’ve got something to tell you.’

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