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Friday, 9 March 2012

The Woodsman’s Cottage Mystery.

 For many years the villagers have wondered about Woodsman’s Cottage. The small secluded building stands like a sentry on the edge of common land at the entrance to the ancient wood. It has been uninhabited for some twenty plus years. The small garden surrounding it becoming very overgrown. The crimson flowered rhododendrons have taken total command of their domain, defeating any other shrubs that may have survived alongside them in the past, allowing only a small glimpse of the red brick cottage to passers-by.

The older villagers can remember when Bill Clayton lived there but his sudden departure from village life was unexplained then and remains so to this day. He was a private man who liked the isolation of his home on the outskirts of the village. As far as those who thought they knew him were aware, Bill had no family. He was an only child, his parents had died, and he was single. There are many rumours about his disappearance. Had he just decided to move away, had the witches of the wood spirited him away, was he dead; no one knows the truth.

The cottage hadn't had any visitors until the day that the 'Property for Auction' sign went up. In fact none of the villagers saw the sign being put up. If it hadn't been for the Auctioneers name and telephone number the mystery would have continued. Several of the more inquisitive locals had made telephone enquiries pretending to be potential bidders at the forthcoming event. All they could find out were the basic details of the cottage, and when and where the auction was to be held. No news about Bill or the seller if it's not him. The mystery continued on.

On auction day a couple of volunteer village spies attended the sale as did John Messenger. He desperately wanted to be, had to be, the new owner of the property he'd coveted for many years. Bill had refused to sell it to him, many times, and they had argued about this.

John found himself bidding against two others in the room. One he recognised as a builder from the nearby market town, and the other was Sarah Clarke another local villager. He couldn't let them buy Woodsman's Cottage. The builder started the bidding at the guide price of £80,000: the battle commenced between the three protagonists. The bids increased by £5000 a time quickly reaching £125,000 and then slowing to £1,000 increases. Sarah stopped bidding first and then the builder leaving John with what he thought was the winning bid at £139,000. This was £14,000 above what he could really afford, but needs must as he felt it was his right to own the property.

The auctioneer started his closing speech: “The bid is with the gentleman seated on the right at one hundred thirty-nine thousand pounds for the first time.” After allowing a short pause he continued: “At one hundred thirty-nine thousand pounds for the second time. Make no mistake I will be selling it.” John's heart was banging, trying to get out of his chest. The air in the room seemed to be thinner as he couldn't get his breath properly. The room had become hotter, his hands were becoming clammy. “This is your last chance ladies and gentlemen: the bid is at one hundred thirty-nine thousand pounds for the third time,” the auctioneer said as he raised his gavel.

“One hundred forty-five thousand” shouted one of the auctioneer’s colleagues, holding a telephone to his ear, sat at the table to the right of the auctioneer, as the gavel started its downward journey.

“We have a new bid on the telephone at one hundred forty-five thousand pounds,” announced the auctioneer, stopping the falling hammer in mid-flight, as he looked in John's direction, in hope of an increased bid from him.

John felt his world fall from beneath his feet. Although desperate to own the cottage; he couldn't respond to this new much higher bid. His ambition had been pole-axed. He looked at the auctioneer and slowly shook his head, left and right. After a new closing speech the gavel was brought down onto the block with a resounding bang. The mystery telephone buyer had won the day with the single surprise bid.

The villagers still had no news about either Bill or the new owner. Woodsman's Cottage was not going to give up its secrets easily, the mystery surrounding it lives on . . .

Edited: 02.12.2012

Continuation story: The mysterious O'Neills 

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