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Lea Croft By Angela Rigley

An everyday tale of murder and life in a Victorian village

Lea Croft

Six-year old Tommy Holloway ran into the kitchen where his mother, Martha, stood kneading bread. “Mam, Mam, they’ve found a body!”

“Really, dear? How nice.” She wasn’t really listening, as her thoughts were elsewhere.

“But, Mam…it’s a real one.”

“A real what, darling?” She looked up, brushing her floury hands over her heart-shaped face.

“A…real…body.” Hands on hips, defying her to mistake his meaning, he glared, his little upturned nose twitching.

“A person?”

“Yes, Mam, in the gully. They say it looks like it’s been there ages.”

“A man or a woman?” He finally had her full attention.

“Um.” Screwing up his face, he scratched his nose. “I don’t know. It’s just a body. I’m going to see if Jimmy’s playing. He always knows everything.” He pulled his cap over his long fair hair. Martha had been intending to cut it for the last week or so, but had not found the time.

She took off her apron. “I’ll come with you. This is something I don’t want to miss.”

Grabbing her hand, he dragged her out the door. “Come on, then. Quick, before they take it away.”

A throng of people had gathered by the time they arrived at the gully on the outskirts of Lea Croft. A tree-covered rock-face sloped steeply upwards as far as the eye could see, and down below the plateau where they stood, the trees thinned out towards the river.

Martha pushed her way to the front of the crowd where her seven year old daughter, Amy, stood peering over the edge.

“Don’t go too near,” Martha warned, pulling her sleeve.

“Isn’t this exciting, Mam? An actual dead body.” Her daughter’s pretty blue eyes shone with animation. “I’ve never seen one before.”

“Do they know who it is?”

A neighbour brushed her arm. “They think it might be Herbert Grant. He disappeared a few months back, if you remember.”

“You mean Farmer Ed’s son?”

“Yes, that’s him. A right rum ’un he was. Always gambling and running riot. Serves him right, if you ask me, if someone’s bumped him off. There’s plenty that would want to.”

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