Episode Seventy-Three

Ep 73

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Taurus
[The 2nd sign of the zodiac; cautious, practical and purposeful]

“Phoebe is alive,” Anna-Maree Axe tells Constance Helling. “She’s been here recently.”

“Who? Phoebe?” Constance asks.

“Yes, only you probably didn’t recognise her.”

“What are you saying, Heather?” Constance’s head is spinning.

“Joanne is in grave danger. Phoebe is not herself.”

“Not herself?”

“Everyone is in grave danger. Phoebe is ill and needs help,” Anna-Maree continues. “We need to find Phoebe before it’s too late.”

“What has she done?”

“She’s out for revenge,” Anna-Maree finally explains. “Phoebe is out for revenge of anyone that stands in her way – only she’s not referring to herself as Phoebe any longer.”

“Not herself,” Constance nods in understanding.

“My daughter needs help. When was the last time you saw Melody Walker?”

“Melody Walker?” Constance gasps. “Melody Walker is your daughter Phoebe?”

“Yes,” Anna-Maree says. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”

“Nobody has seen her since the explosion at The Grand Hotel,” Constance informs Anna-Maree.

“I can tell you now that she was probably the one responsible,” Anna-Maree says.

“But why?” Constance asks, unsure.

“She’s not well, Constance. She needs help. She’s out for revenge!”

Constance lowers herself to the ground, still trying to understand the news she has just been given.

“I know it’s hard to understand,” Anna-Maree continues, “but Phoebe faked her own death. She never was quite the same after her operations to save her. The brain tumor left her damaged.”

“How did you know she was here?” Constance asks.

“I read an article in The Holgate Times about The Poetry Predator,” Anna-Maree explains. “It detailed some other incidents that had occurred, such as the shooting of a park ranger in hospital, the suspected poisoning of a nurse and then, finally, the explosion at The Grand Hotel. I knew that Phoebe had to be involved.”

“She has to be stopped before she hurts someone else,” Constance says.

“That’s why we need to find her. That’s why I’m here. And that’s why I need you to tell me the truth!”

Constance looks up at Anna-Maree, a feeling of guilt suddenly wrenching her whole body.


“Please believe me, Olivia,” Michael Anders urges. “Your sister, Amber Harp, was attacked. Not long after her attack I have reason to believe she was abducted by someone claiming to be her husband, Steven Harp.”

“But, but…” Olivia stutters, “…Steven is dead.”

“I know,” Michael continues. “That’s why I have grave dangers about your sister. I believe she may be in trouble.”

Olivia takes in a deep breath, closes her eyes and then exhales. “Amber is safe,” she says quickly.

“What?” Michael Anders asks.

“My sister and her son, Drake, are both safe,” Olivia confirms.

“What do you mean? Where are they?” Michael is incredulous.

“Look,” Olivia says, peering around the neighbourhood outside and lowering her voice. “I’m not supposed to be telling you this…”

Michael Anders and Valerie Pickering both move in closer to Olivia, trying hard to hear what she is about to tell them.

“…my sister, Amber,” Olivia continues, “is currently in witness protection with her son.”

Michael stares at Olivia, the sudden realisation of events hitting him.

“Her investigation into Doctor Peter Smith’s fraudulent activities was getting too close for comfort. After the attack on her life, she needed to be put away for safe keeping.”

“Put away for safe keeping?” Michael winces.

“She was putting herself in too much danger,” Olivia explains. “She needed to be extracted.”

Behind Olivia, in the doorway, a man suddenly appears. “Is everything okay?” he asks.

Michael Anders recognises the man instantly as the person imitating Amber’s husband, Steven Harp, in the hospital. “Steven?” Michael asks hesitantly.

“No,” Olivia says. “This is my husband, Andy. He helped to extract Amber.”

“I was there, I know,” Michael says. “But why would Amber think that Andy was her husband, Steven?”

“She was so confused after the attack,” Olivia explains. “She’s still getting her memory back, and she’s still having seizures.”

“I want to see her!” Michael suddenly demands.

“You can’t,” Olivia says, “she’s in witness protection. She’s in hiding!”

“I want to know that she’s safe!” Michael says, becoming emotional at the thought of his lover being alone.

“Trust me,” Olivia declares, “she’s safe now.”


27 years ago

“You’re going to make a wonderful mother,” the midwife, Constance Helling, tells Heather Strong, handing the baby over to her.

Heather Strong looks at the baby girl in her arms and starts to cry. “She’s beautiful.”

“She looks just like you,” Constance informs her. “She’s got your nose.”

Heather Strong laughs. “She’s too small to have my nose.”

Constance giggles to herself. “Too true. She is way too small to have your nose. But I’m sure one day she’ll look just like you.”


The night of the full moon

“That’s why we need to find her,” Anna-Maree declares. “That’s why I’m here. And that’s why I need you to tell me the truth!”

Constance looks up at Anna-Maree, a feeling of guilt suddenly wrenching her whole body. “The truth?”

“You know what I’m talking about Constance!” Anna-Maree shouts. “Where is the birth certificate? You know what I’ve been looking for this whole time!”


27 years ago

Heather Strong carries her newborn daughter out of the Peppercorn Patch hospital and approaches the car where her husband has arranged to pick her up. She opens the door and secures her daughter into the baby capsule in the backseat of the car.

“It’s going to be so sad to leave this place,” Heather says as she joins her husband in the front of the car. “We’ve made so many good friends here.”

“There’s no work for me here,” Christian Strong reminds his wife. “We need to go to Holgate so I can get a proper job to look after my family.”

“I know,” Heather says, placing a hand on her husband’s knee. “I know you want to look after your new family.”


The night of the full moon

“It was a simple mistake,” Constance says. “By the time I realised what I’d done, it was too late. There was no way I could do anything about it.”

“You stupid woman!” Anna-Maree yells at Constance. “You’ve ruined everybody’s lives!”

Constance collapses to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. “I’m sorry,” she splutters.


17 years ago

Heather Strong had lived in Holgate for ten years with her family before her daughter became ill. Phoebe Strong was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She had been showing symptoms for a few months before her mother finally took her to a doctor to be looked at.

“We’ve run some blood tests,” the doctor said to Heather and Christian Strong. “I’m afraid they show some inconsistencies.”

“What do you mean by inconsistencies?” Christian Strong asked.

“Is Phoebe adopted?” the doctor asked.

“No, I gave birth to her!” Heather replied, scoffing at the doctor’s questioning.

“I don’t think that’s possible, given these results.” The doctor looks at the couple, confounded.


The night of the full moon

Constance Helling tries to control her sudden outburst of grief. Anna-Maree Axe, once known as Heather Strong to Constance, kneels down next to her.

“I need to know the truth once and for all,” Anna-Maree says. “What happened?”

Constance takes in deep breaths, trying to control her sobbing.

“So much was going on that night,” Constance reflects. “Annette Pickering had just died during childbirth and you were giving birth at the same time…”

“Please, just tell me.” Tears start to roll down Anna-Maree’s face.

“I got confused and mixed up the babies,” Constance begins to sob again uncontrollably.

The paternity test reveals that Peter Smith shares no genetic material with Joanne Evans. Peter Smith, therefore, cannot be Joanne’s biological father.

“Joanne Evans,” Constance continues to cry, “is your real daughter!”


Season Final – Monday July 3

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy-Two

Ep 72

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Aries
[The 1st sign of the zodiac; determined, impulsive, headstrong, driven and ambitious]

“You’re free to go home, Joanne,” Joel informs her. “The charges against you have been dropped.”

Joanne nearly collapses to the floor with the news. Joel tries hard to hold her up. “I don’t understand…” she stutters.

“Thomas Helling walked into the courthouse just moments ago and gave himself in,” Joel explains. “He’s just been charged with the murder of Kyle Cook.”


“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, interrogates Thomas Helling. “How can we believe that you were responsible for murdering Constable Kyle Cook?”

Thomas Helling closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He knew that it would eventually all come to this. He could never let his own sister take the blame for what had happened. Joanne Evans may have been the one that had actually killed Kyle Cook, but Thomas knew that he had to take responsibility for the events that had unfolded. He had allowed himself to be brainwashed by Kyle and the least he could do was help his sister.

“You’ll believe me,” Thomas says, “when I show you.”

“Show us what?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

“I can take you there,” Thomas informs the prosecutor.

“Take me where?” Virginia is growing impatient.

“I will show you proof of my involvement.”


Michael Anders pulls his car up to the kerb, pulling the keys out of the ignition. “I think this is the place.”

“Are you sure?” asks Valerie Pickering, who sits opposite him in the passenger seat.

“I found the address among Amber’s belongings.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Valerie says, starting to the open the car door.

“I just don’t understand!” Michael suddenly shouts. Valerie instinctively pulls the door closed. She looks around to see if anyone has heard them.

“Michael?” Valerie asks, confused.

“I mean,” Michael contemplates, “if Amber’s husband had been killed, then who was that at the hospital? Who did she drive off with?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Valerie shrugs. “Maybe this place will give you some answers.”

Michael nods, stepping out of the car and approaching the front door of the house they had parked in front of. Michael knocks on the front door as Valerie rests a hand on his shoulder, a sign of her show of support.

After a few seconds, the front door opens to reveal a woman with dark hair. At first Michael thinks he recognises Amber Harp, but quickly realises that, though the woman has the same eyes as Amber, it was not his lover. “Olivia?” Michael asks the woman.

“Yes,” the woman in the house replies, seemingly unsure of the uninvited guests at her front door.

“Olivia?” Michael asks again. “Are you Amber Harp’s sister?”


Thomas Helling walks along the forest track. His hands, both handcuffed in front of his body, make his stride uneasy as he tries to navigate the uneven ground. His balance is being tested like never before.

Behind Thomas, prosecutor Virginia D’Amor steps gingerly. She realises she should have changed her clothes before attempting their venture into the national park surrounding the town of Peppercorn Patch. She pulls off her dark blue business jacket as she begins to build up a sweat.

“How much longer?” Virginia D’Amor asks Thomas.

“Just around the corner here,” Thomas calls back.

As they round the corner of trees, the five policemen escorting the duo surround Thomas. He lifts both of his handcuffed hands and points his right index finger towards some shrubbery and bushes. “In there,” he says.

Virginia D’Amor steps timidly towards the bushes. She pulls on some latex gloves as she manoeuvres her way across the uneven ground. Using some branches she finds lying on the ground, Virginia pokes her way through the undergrowth. The woody plants scratch her bare arms as she tries to shield her face. As she gets closer, she suddenly sees it.

A skeleton.

Human remains.

Virginia covers her face in horror.

“I killed him,” Thomas explains. “There’s my proof that I’m a murderer.”

Virginia turns to face Thomas Helling. “You killed Inspector Wesley Manning?” she asks.

“Yes,” Thomas says. “I killed Kyle Cook too!”


“Who are you?” Olivia snaps.

“My name is Michael Anders. I’m a police officer based in Peppercorn Patch.”

“What’s this about, then?” Olivia says, annoyed.

“Have you seen your sister, Amber Harp?” Michael asks.

“My sister?”

“Yes,” Michael explains. “We have reason to believe she may be in danger.”

“Danger?” Olivia seems confused. “How so?”

“She was in Peppercorn Patch recently,” Michael explains, “covering the murder of Richard Evans for her story…”

“…she covers lots of stories!” Olivia interrupts.

“I know,” Michael says, trying hard to explain the situation, “but she was attacked.”

“What?” Olivia puts a hand to her forehead, screwing her face up in disbelief.

“Please believe me, Olivia,” Michael urges. “Your sister was attacked. Not long after her attack I have reason to believe she was abducted by someone claiming to be her husband, Steven Harp.”

“But, but…” Olivia stutters, “…Steven is dead.”

“I know,” Michael continues. “That’s why I have grave dangers about your sister. I believe she may be in trouble.”


Joanne Evans forces the front door of her aunt’s house open and rushes inside. Doctor Joel Prasad follows, entering the house with a small bag of clothes and toiletries.

“Cathy?” Joanne shouts into the house, almost sounding too eager.

Joel places the bags down on the floor and rests one of his hands on Joanne’s shoulder. “He’s been well looked after.”

“Cathy?” Joanne calls out again.

Cathy Gilmore had moved into Joanne Evans’ aunt’s house not long after her husband, Mark Gilmore, had been killed in the bombing of The Grand Hotel. All three women had felt they had lost everything – Cathy had lost her husband; Valerie had lost her business; and Joanne had almost lost her freedom.

But one thing had kept them all going.

One thing had kept them all alive.

“Where is he?” Joanne calls out again, impatiently.

From the lounge room, Cathy Gilmore strides towards Joanne. Walking next to her, finding his feet uneasily, walks an 18 month old toddler.

Joanne kneels down to the floor, stretching her arms out and allowing a stream of tears fall down her face.

The toddler looks at Joanne timidly at first, holding onto Cathy’s leg, unsure.

“Come and give mummy a hug!” Joanne sings out as Ricky runs to his mother, giggling with glee.


Four months after the Day of the Wedding

“Joanne,” Constance Helling whispers, waking the sleeping patient. “Do you know what day it is?”

“Huh?” Joanne rubs her eyes as she wakes up.

“It’s the day you get to go home,” Constance says. “Today you get to leave this place.”

Constance sits on the Holgate Bedlamites hospital bed next to Joanne. She places an envelope on Joanne’s lap. “Your test results.”

“My test results?” Joanne is perplexed.

“Remember, you wanted to be tested for Huntington’s Disease.”

Joanne puts a hand to her head. “Oh, yes,” she says. “I almost forgot.”

“Open it in your own time,” Constance says, referring to the envelope with the test results.


Joanne Evans lies in her own bed for the first time in six months. She is so happy to be at home, surrounded by loved ones. She will be forever indebted to her best friend, Cathy Gilmore, for looking after her son, Ricky, while she was locked away in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Kyle Cook.

She rests her head on the pillow, looking over at Ricky sound asleep next to her. The infant makes a slight snoring sound as he rests his head close to hers. How she longed for this moment for months. Finally she was home.

Joanne stares at the ceiling. How had Thomas managed to convince them of his involvement? Joanne thinks to herself. She didn’t like the thought of her brother being locked away for a murder he didn’t commit, but was grateful for his sacrifice. It meant that she could carry on with her own retribution.

Her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith, had been acquitted and let free. She had to find him and stop him before he managed to destroy any more lives.

Before she did that, however, she needed to find out for herself once and for all. Her father had Huntington’s Disease and she needed to find out if she had it too. She needed to know before she ever put her own son at risk.

Joanne’s index finger rips through the yellow envelope as if in slow motion. Joanne breathes heavily as she pulls out the test results. She had been holding on to them for so long in the fear the results would destroy her.

Joanne skims through the results, trying to determine what is written on the piece of paper in front of her.

Joanne holds her breath as she reads the results. Negative to Huntington’s Disease.

A tear falls down her cheek. She is suddenly feeling overwhelmed.

Joanne reads down the report further. She doesn’t quite understand. Another test? she asks herself.

Yes, the Holgate Bedlamites hospital staff had conducted another test. A test that Joanne didn’t even know about.

Joanne pants heavily, holding her chest as the test results flutter to the bedroom floor.

A paternity test.

Joanne feels as though she can’t breathe.

A paternity test conducted on her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith.

The room spins as Joanne continues to clutch her chest.

The paternity test reveals that Peter Smith shares no genetic material with Joanne Evans. Peter Smith, therefore, cannot be Joanne’s biological father.


Next Episode – Monday June 26

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy-One

IMG_1192

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Pisces
[The 12th sign of the zodiac; victimised and moody]

Michael Anders catches his breath, still reeling from his realised horror. He watches as the envelope falls to the floor, the business name printed on the front of it burning into his mind. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.

Doctor Peter Smith.

How had he not seen it earlier? The letter that was written to Amber Harp threatening her and her family was poetic in style – all the hallmarks of The Poetry Predator.

Had Doctor Peter Smith also murdered Amber’s husband, Steven Harp? Was that the real reason Amber was in Peppercorn Patch – hunting down her husband’s killer? Michael Anders was desperate to find answers so that he could locate Amber and protect her.

He buries his head in his hands, trying to think about what to do next.

The stillness of the empty house is suddenly interrupted as the sound of someone knocking on the front door echoes hauntingly through it. Michael jumps, startled. His heart almost stops beating. He heads timidly to the front door.

He peers through the front window to get a glimpse of his guest, before opening the front door in a wave of confusion. “What the hell are you doing here?”


Joanne Evans looks around the small room again. It is empty apart from a desk and three chairs, all of which had seen better days. The walls, painted a light green colour, needed some attention. She could see a few expletives etched into the table, and wouldn’t be surprised if the underside of the table was a wasteland of expired chewing gum. She didn’t want to look, and dared not feel under the table.

Her lawyer had been taking what felt like a lifetime. She had been stuck in here for most of the morning, waiting for her trial to start. The small waiting room in the courthouse was her current prison. Before long she would know whether a prison sentence was in her future.

Her friend, Cathy Gilmore, had been to the courthouse earlier in the day and had delivered Joanne a change of clothes for the trial. The light purple jacket and matching skirt would supposedly make Joanne appear feminine, but also the right balance of powerful and vulnerable, or so her lawyer had told her. She was willing to try anything, for she had been charged with a serious crime. She was looking at a life of imprisonment if she was found guilty of the murder of Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook.

She hadn’t worried so much about the prospect of being in prison for the rest of her life before – besides she had pulled the trigger and killed Kyle Cook. She had been prepared to take responsibility for her crime, so long as her son, Ricky, was well looked after, and she knew that Cathy Gilmore would see to that. However, she was worrying now. Ever since the recent acquittal of her biological father, Doctor Peter Smith, she knew that she couldn’t go to prison. She had to get out and protect her loved ones from that demented psychopath. She knew he would stop at nothing to continue destroying the lives of those around him.

She was so angry that it had all come to this.


“What the hell are you doing here?” Michael Anders says as he opens the front door of Amber Harp’s house.

His uninvited guest looks up at him. A relieved look on her face.

“How did you find me here?” Michael continues to ask.

Valerie Pickering steps up to Michael Anders and pulls his hands in to hers. She pulls them up to her face and a tear falls down her cheek. “It’s so good to see you, Sergeant Anders.”

“Val, I don’t understand…” Michael begins.

“Neither do I,” Valerie admits. “It’s these hallucinations I’ve been having. Ever since the kidney transplant I’ve been having these weird premonitions.”

Michael suddenly puts one of his hands onto his lower back. He swears he can feel where the kidney was taken out begin to ache.

“We have a connection,” Valerie continues. “Maybe because of the kidney, maybe more.”

“Your premonitions led you here?” Michael asks, still bewildered.

“Yes, my sweet child,” Valerie says, now taking a hold of Michael’s face. “I dreamt that I would find you here.”

“But why did you come?”

“It’s not me who needs you,” Valerie offers. “Joanne is on trial for killing Kyle. She needs your support right now. You should come back with me so she has a friend to help her through this.”

Michael sighs sympathetically, closing his eyes. “I wish I could do more,” Michael says. “But I really need to stay here and keep looking for Amber. I’m sorry about Joanne.”

“That was the other reason I came,” Valerie offers.

“I don’t follow.”

“I also had a premonition about Amber,” Valerie tells him.

“You know where she is?” Michael asks excitedly.

“Not exactly,” Valerie says, “but I might be able to help.”

“I fear she is in danger. I think Doctor Smith is responsible for attacking her and maybe even killing her husband,” Michael explains.

“That was the premonition I had about Amber,” Valerie confesses. “Doctor Smith was acquitted and released from prison. Now he’s out there looking for her, too.”

“We have to find her before he does!” Michael asserts.


The door to the small court waiting room creaks open and Joanne sees an unsuspecting face enter the room.

“What are you doing here?” Joanne asks, puzzled.

Doctor Joel Prasad pulls out a chair and takes a seat next to Joanne. “I’m here for support. How are you holding up?”

“I want this all to be over,” Joanne tells Peppercorn Patch’s newest doctor. “I just want to go home and pretend none of this ever happened.”

“I know it must be hard,” Joel says, putting a comforting hand on Joanne’s. “I just wanted to say that you have the support of a lot of people. You have a lot of friends that care about you.”

Joanne puts her free hand over Joel’s. “I know.” She attempts a smile.

“If you ever need anything when you return home, I’m more than happy to help out,” Joel tells Joanne.

“That’s if I ever do get to go home,” Joanne sighs. “I’ll probably be stuck inside a prison, while the real monster, Doctor Smith, will be out there doing God knows what!”

Joel Prasad stands, pulling Joanne up with him as he does so. He leads her towards the door without saying a word.

“What are you doing?” Joanne says. “Where are we going?”

Joel pushes the door open, turns to face Joanne and gives her a big smile. “Home. I’m taking you home.”

“What are you on about?” Joanne’s heart is racing.

“You’re free to go home, Joanne,” Joel informs her. “The charges against you have been dropped.”

Joanne nearly collapses to the floor with the news. Joel tries hard to hold her up. “I don’t understand…” she stutters.

“Thomas Helling walked into the courthouse just moments ago and gave himself in,” Joel explains. “He’s just been charged with the murder of Kyle Cook.”


Next Episode – Monday June 19

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Seventy

Episode 70

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Aquarius
[11th sign of the zodiac; individuals of the zodiac – detached and unpredictable]

Michael Anders steps up to the front door. He peers inside the window to see if he can see any sign of life inside the house. The place looks like it hadn’t been lived in for quite some time, which isn’t a surprise given the letterbox is overflowing with unopened mail.

Michael walks around the front verandah of Amber Harp’s Holgate house. He had managed to find out where she had once lived with her husband and son, and hoped that he might be able to find her here. It didn’t look like they had returned yet. Michael was at a loss. He really wanted to find Amber Harp, for he feared that she was in danger. He pulls the crumpled handwritten note that she had secretly given him out of his pocket and reads it again: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

Pulling a tool out of his back pocket, Michael pushes it into the back door’s keyhole. He gives the tool a few turns before hearing the click of the bolt opening. A trick he picked up in his time as a police officer.

Stepping inside the house, Michael hopes that there will be something he will be able to find that will point to the location of his missing lover. “Where are you, Amber?” he says to himself as he looks around the still and quiet house. A slight musty smell fills the air. Michael reasons that the house must have been closed up for some time.

Michael steps into the kitchen and opens the fridge. It is almost empty, apart from a few containers of food and vegetables, which now sport an array of mould and other living things. A foul smell quickly escapes the cool tomb and fills the air. Michael holds his breath and slams the fridge door closed, trying hard not to gag.

Moving to the front of the house, Michael locates what looks like a study. He enters the room and sees a number of university degrees adorning the wall. Amber Harp, they read. Bachelor of Communication and Journalism. Amber’s study.

Michael looks at the neatly arranged items on the desk. The pens are neatly stored in a cup on the desk’s corner. The folders holding Amber’s investigative research are neatly stacked. Just as I remember Amber, Michael thinks to himself. He remembered her as someone who was neat and organised, forever chastising him for his sometimes careless manner. She had even helped him organise his desk in the Peppercorn Patch Police Station once, though the organisation that she had achieved for him didn’t seem to last long. His desk may have looked a little like a warzone at times, he had told her, however it was more organised chaos than anything else. He always claimed to know where all the files were that he needed.

Amber Harp and Michael’s relationship had begun a little under two years ago. As the sergeant of Peppercorn Police he had been responsible for investigating the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. A crime reporter for the newspaper, The Holgate Times, Amber had arrived in Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. Not long after that, Joanne started to receive threatening letters in the form of poetry, leading to her eventual capture. Michael and Amber were there, assisting each other with the investigation and the subsequent unmasking of the Poetry Predator.

Amber and Michael became more than just colleagues. More than just friends. They fell in love.

That was until Amber was attacked one night. Her attacker fled in the cover of darkness, leaving Amber with a head injury which left her with a permanent injury – seizures would most probably plague her for the rest of her life.

Michael didn’t know for sure who had attacked Amber, but he had his suspicions. Amber had been adamant that his deputy, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook, was somehow involved in the murder of Joanne Evans’ husband, Richard. Michael had wondered whether Kyle could have attacked Amber, knowing that she was getting too close to his secret.

Michael opens the desk drawer and looks inside at the neatly arranged items. He notices an envelope and pulls it out. Amber’s name is handwritten on the front. He opens the envelope and pulls out its contents. A handwritten letter rests in his fingertips.


18 months ago

Amber Harp had been in Peppercorn Patch much longer than she had originally planned. After the murder of her husband, Steven Harp, Amber had sought revenge. She wanted to bring the person or people responsible for her husband’s murder to justice.

When she had heard of the murder of Richard Evans, she had jumped quickly on the case, convincing her boss, the editor of The Holgate Times, to let her travel to Peppercorn Patch to cover the story. What she had neglected to tell anyone was her true intentions.

It was the threatening letter that had really brought her to Peppercorn Patch. The letter that had been sent to her which threatened her family if she continued with the investigation that she had been undertaking. It was a handwritten letter that had been imprinted on Amber’s memory. She could never forget it, especially once her husband had been murdered. No one would want to mess with her again. She swore she would seek vengeance for her husband. All she had to do was follow the clues. And the biggest clue of all had been on the envelope.


Michael Anders reads the letter for the second time, noting something familiar about the way it was written. It was something that he had seen before.

He puts the letter down and inspects the envelope again. He screams out in horror as he finally sees it, throwing the envelope as far away from him as possible.


18 months ago

Yes, Amber Harp had stayed much longer than she had originally planned to. She had no doubts about who had murdered her husband and was biding her time, waiting for the opportune time to strike.

In the meantime, she had also become deep in the investigation of Richard Evans’ death and was certain she knew who the real killer was.

Amber stood at the gravesite of Benjamin Pickering, the flashlight she held illuminating the headstone.  She couldn’t help but think of what the site looked like only a few short months earlier. Benjamin Pickering’s body had been dug up and burned in a fire at the local high school. Everyone assumed it was Thomas Helling.

“He couldn’t have done this by himself,” Amber said to herself. “There’s no way he could have dug this grave up and pulled out a body on his own.”

Amber heard the sound of the leaves rustling. She shone her flashlight up into the tree.

The attack came unexpectedly from behind.

The deafening crack of a metal object smashing into Amber’s skull echoed through the cemetery.

Amber’s attacker ran off into the darkness.


Michael Anders catches his breath, still reeling from his realised horror. He watches as the envelope falls to the floor, the business name printed on the front of it. Peppercorn Patch Hospital. Michael now understood who had attacked Amber.


18 months ago

Amber instinctively reached for the back of her head, collapsing to the ground from the force of the blow. The baseball bat used to attack her rested on the grass next to her. Her head throbbed as she tried to call out for help, but no sound escaped. As she drifted in and out of consciousness, Amber could see a figure running off in the distance.

Amber recognised her attacker. Amber recognised her husband’s killer.

Amber recognised Doctor Peter Smith.


Next Episode – Monday June 12

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Episode Sixty-Nine

Episode 69

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Capricorn
[The 10th sign of the zodiac; reach new heights, beating those who are faster, yet less determined]

Six months ago

Amber Harp looks at Sergeant Michael Anders without saying anything. They stare at each other silently for a second before the sound of the car’s horn disrupts them. “Time to go Amber!” Steven Harp, Amber’s husband, shouts impatiently.

Amber pulls away quickly. Michael notices a tear fall down her cheek.

Silently, Amber enters the car and closes the door behind her.

As the car takes off, Michael can see Amber meet his gaze. She mouths the words I love you to him.

Michael brings a hand to his face and wipes the tears from his cheeks. He reaches into his pocket for a tissue. It’s then that he realises that something is in it. A piece of paper. Amber must have slipped it into his pocket while they were hugging each other.

Michael unfolds the piece of paper and reads his lover’s handwriting: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.

Sergeant Michael Anders looks up suddenly from the piece of paper. He looks on as the car holding Amber Harp captive rounds the distant corner and exits the town of Peppercorn Patch.


The night of the full moon

The glass doors to the entrance of The Holgate Times building slide open and Sergeant Michael Anders steps inside. He walks up to the front desk where he can see a receptionist working away diligently at her computer.

“I’m a police officer investigating the disappearance of one of your employees, Amber Harp,” Michael informs her.

“Amber Harp?” the receptionist ponders. “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

“Since when?” Michael asks.

“A few weeks,” the receptionist says, looking back to her screen. “She just called me one day and said that she wasn’t returning.”

“Did she tell you why?” Michael asks, feeling anxious.

“Nope. Just said that she had met someone and was leaving, so she wouldn’t be back.”

“She didn’t tell you who she’d met?”

“Look, I’m pretty busy here, Mister…” the receptionist starts.

“…Sergeant Anders, from the Peppercorn Patch police station.” Michael is impatient.

“Peppercorn Patch, hey?” the receptionist says, taking her glasses off. “That’s where she was working before she quit. She was investigating that murder…”

“Yes, the murder of Richard Evans,” Michael agrees. “She had some theories about who had killed him.”

“Richard Evans?” the receptionist says, confused. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“What do you mean? That’s why she went there originally. To investigate his murder.”

“You know journalists,” the receptionist says, putting her glasses back on and going back to her screen. “They always have a cover story.”

“A cover story?”

“She was in Peppercorn Patch to investigate a murder,” the receptionist offers. “The murder of her husband.”


Six months later

Michael Anders startles himself awake. He had been having one of his bad dreams. Again. They seemed to be constant, and he felt that they wouldn’t end.

He rubs his eyes and sits up on the bed. The small motel room he is staying in has a damp musty smell.

He pulls on the clothes that are lying on the floor. The same clothes he had been wearing yesterday, and the day before that. He hadn’t yet had a chance to do his washing and had run out of clean clothes.

Michael looks into the dirty mirror in the room’s small bathroom and runs his fingers through his long hair. He notices the bushy unkempt beard which seems to have taken over the lower part of his face. It makes him look much older than his 38 years.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten properly. He hadn’t slept properly. He was no longer functioning properly.

This case had taken over his whole life.

He had taken leave from his position as Peppercorn Patch’s police chief and had taken residence in a dingy motel in Holgate on the hunt for his lover, Amber Harp.

So far, though, he hadn’t been able to find out much. She was still missing, along with her son, Drake, and her so-called husband, Steven, who was supposed to be dead.

Yes, this case had engulfed every part of his being.

He wasn’t going to let go. He knew that Amber Harp needed him. Somehow he was going to find her. Somehow it was going to be okay. Everything was going to be good again.


Three years ago

Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband and son should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

“What a wonderful surprise,” Amber said to her husband, Steven, who she saw sitting in the bubbling spa. “Where’s Drake?”

Steven Harp poured a glass of champagne for his wife and it handed it her, their glasses chinking together. “He’s with your sister for the night,” Steven informed her, “so we’ve got the whole night to ourselves.”

Amber laughed out loud as she started pulling her clothes off.

“I’ve ordered takeaway from your favourite Thai place,” Steven added as Amber entered the spa. “And we can lie on the couch together and watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see.”

Amber pulled herself over next to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re the best, you know that?”

“You’re the best,” he said back to her, wrapping his arm around her.

Amber sighed loudly, before taking a sip of her champagne.

“How was work?” Steven Harp could sense that Amber was distracted.

“It’s this case,” Amber said, stretching out her neck and rubbing it with her free hand. “I think I’m getting myself in deeper than I’d like to.”

“Crime reporter Amber Harp,” Steven said, almost laughing, “getting herself involved in something too deep? Never!”

Amber slapped her husband gently. “I’m serious, Steven,” she said, “this case I’m investigating – it’s really unsettling me.”

Steven began to caress Amber’s neck. “Well, maybe you need to stop investigating it, baby.”

Amber laughed out loud. “Crime reporter Amber Harp stop investigating?” She pushed her husband playfully under the water as they both giggled out loud. “Never!”


Amber Harp stepped up to her sister’s front door.

“I’m sorry to do this to you,” Amber said to her sister, Olivia, when she opened the door, “but I need you to look after Drake for me.”

Drake Harp, 7 years of age, held an overnight bag. His face couldn’t hide the fact that he did not wish to be with his aunt.

“Amber?” Olivia said, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“I just need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber repeated, ushering Drake into the house with his bag. “Something has happened at work and he can’t be at home.”

“Amber?” Olivia was still concerned. “What’s going on?”

Amber pushed a hand to her forehead, before sighing. “It’s this case I’ve been investigating.”

“I knew it!” Olivia cried out. “I told you that you needed to back off! It’s too much.”

“I’ve been receiving threats,” Amber informed her sister.

“Amber?”

“I need you to look after Drake for me,” Amber said firmly, backing away from the door. “Until I get this sorted.”

“How long?” Olivia called out.

“I don’t know,” Amber said, continuing to back away from the house towards her car. “Hopefully not too long.”

“Threats?”

“A phone call. Some letters,” Amber told her.

“Does Steven know?”

Amber stopped suddenly and looked back at her sister standing in the doorway. “Please don’t tell Steven. He would make me quit my job.”

“But threats, Amber?” Olivia said. “You’re in over your head.”

“I can handle this,” Amber said, jumping into her car and starting the engine. She wound the window down and looked back at her sister. “Just look after my son.”


On the way home, Amber thought about the phone call she had received earlier in the day. A voice she did not recognise told her to back down from her investigation or her family would be harmed. She knew she needed to get her son out of the house. She didn’t yet know what she was going to tell her husband.


Amber Harp entered the front door of her house and dropped her bag to the ground.

The house was dark, which was unexpected, as her husband should have been home.

“Steven?” Amber called out to her husband.

There was no answer, so she pushed her hand against the wall, trying to find the light switch in the dark. She flicked it on but the room stayed dark. Amber thought there must have been a tripped switch.

She walked further into the dark house, removing her high-heeled shoes as she did so. She felt her way, grabbing onto furniture for guidance.

As she neared the bedroom, she could hear a low murmur. Was it music?

Amber fondled for the closed bedroom door handle in the dark. She pushed the door open and was greeted with a bewildering sight.

Lit candles flickered throughout the bedroom and rose petals covered the bed. The sweet sound of classical music filled the air.

Amber moved further into the bedroom, a wide smile erupting over her face as she entered the bedroom’s en suite.

Amber’s glee turned to horror as she saw the spa bath her husband was lying in was full of red water. She howled immediately as she saw one of his arms hanging over the bath, the escaped blood from his cut wrists making rivers across the tiled floor.

Amber stumbled to the spa bath and tried to pull her unconscious husband from the bubbling water. She screamed out for help, knowing that her neighbours probably wouldn’t be able to hear her.

“Steven!” Amber screamed. “No! Steven!”

Without realising her own strength, Amber pulled Steven out of the bath and onto the floor. The whole bathroom floor was awash with the blood-stained water.

“No!” Amber continued to scream, lying on the wet floor with her husband held tight in her arms. “Steven!”

Amber continued to sob loudly, holding her husband close to her body.

Her mind flashed to the phone call that she had received earlier that day and the threatening letter she had received at work earlier in the week. Steven Harp hadn’t done this to himself, Amber knew.

“They’ll pay for what they’ve done to you, Steven,” Amber cried. “I’ll find whoever did this to you and they’ll pay!”

Amber’s mind raced as she thought back to the letter she had received. The name of the business printed on the front of the envelope flashed suddenly in front of her eyes.

“I won’t let whoever did this to you get away with it! Trust me, I will hunt them down and kill them myself!”


Next Episode – Monday June 5

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Sixty-Eight

Episode 68

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Sagittarius
[The 9th sign of the zodiac; fire]

She clenches her hands together, her fingers intertwining with each other. She can’t help but notice the empty space on the end of each hand where her little fingers should be.

Cathy Gilmore takes a deep breath and takes her position in the witness stand.

Her hands are sweating profusely. She is understandably nervous.

She takes the oath and looks around at the crowded courtroom. She tries not to make eye contact with the accused, Doctor Peter Smith, sitting handcuffed in the dock.

“Please state your name for the court,” the prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, asks Cathy.

“Catherine Gilmore.”

“And you currently live in Peppercorn Patch, is that correct?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Do you know who that is?” Virginia D’Amor asks Cathy, pointing to the dock.

“Yes, that’s Doctor Peter Smith.”

“And how do you know him?”

“We used to work together, in the hospital,” Cathy replies. “I work there as a nurse.”

“How long did you know Doctor Smith?”

“Ever since I moved to Peppercorn Patch,” Cathy says. “About 8 or so years ago when I started working as a nurse.”

“Did you ever notice anything peculiar about him?” Virginia D’Amor probes.

“Peculiar?” Cathy ponders. “Not really. He was just the friendly town doctor.”

“Tell me about when you first noticed something was strange.”

“I was working at the hospital one day,” Cathy recounts. “I happened upon an envelope addressed to Doctor Smith.”

“And you opened it?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

“I know I shouldn’t have, but it wasn’t sealed,” Cathy says. “I was curious. I never could have imagined it would have led to what unfolded.”

“What was that?”

“I found a prescription for a drug in the envelope,” Cathy says. “A drug to treat schizophrenia. I knew then there was no way that Doctor Smith should have been still practicing as a doctor.”

“Did you tell anyone?”

“Not straight away,” Cathy explains. “I wanted to confront Doctor Smith about it first.”

“And did you?”

“I didn’t get a chance,” Cathy says. “Somehow he must have found out that I knew.”

“Why do you say that?” prosecution barrister, Viriginia D’Amor, asks.

“That’s when I received the first poem.”

Cathy closes her eyes and sees the poem in front of her.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
I want to make you scream!

“I didn’t know who it was from at first,” Cathy continues. “It was an anonymous letter.”

“When did you first learn that it was Doctor Peter Smith that had written those letters?” Virginia D’Amor asks.

Cathy takes a deep breath and her mind flashes back to the night she was held captive by the Poetry Predator in the boot of her own car.

Cathy bangs on the roof of the boot with her fists, trying to make as much noise as possible. Moments earlier the car had come to a stop and the engine had been switched off. Without warning, she hears a key entering the lock and the boot door shoots open. She can see the stars twinkle in the night sky above her. She is overcome with fear as a dark figure leans down over her.

“Hello Cathy,” the Poetry Predator says.

“What do you want with me?” Cathy tries to remain calm.

“Cathy, I think you know,” Cathy’s captor says eerily. “You’ve known the truth about me for a while now. You’re the only one that knows.”

“I won’t tell anyone, I swear,” Cathy says, trying to stay strong.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary,”
the Poetry Predator recites out loud,
“How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And Cathy’s fingers all in a row.”

With that, the pliers around Cathy’s little finger is clamped together. The crunch of bone is masked only by the sound of Cathy’s scream.


Joanne Evans sits in her cell. She feels angry that the defence barrister was able to upset her like he did. She knows that it must have looked bad. Some people might actually begin to doubt what happened to her. Some people might actually begin to doubt that Doctor Peter Smith was responsible at all. Worse still, the jury might doubt her. The jury might doubt her every word.


The prosecution barrister, Virginia D’Amor, takes her seat after finishing her questioning with Cathy. The defence barrister, Harvey Dennis, steps up to ask his questions. Before he does so, he smiles politely at the jury.

“Cathy Gilmore,” Harvey Dennis begins, “you’ve just told the court how Doctor Peter Smith held you and Joanne Evans captive and was responsible for mutilating you.”

“That’s correct.” Cathy grimaces at the thought of being mutilated.

“You told the court earlier that you had known Doctor Peter Smith since you moved to Peppercorn Patch 8 years ago.”

“Yes.”

“But, in fact, you moved to Peppercorn Patch much earlier than that.” Harvey Dennis refers to his notes. “Hospital pay slips and a rental agreement note that you moved there 10 years ago.”

“Oh?” Cathy is thrown. She rubs her forehead. “I’m mistaken.”

“Could it possible you could be mistaken about other things that you’ve told the court today?” Harvey Dennis continues.

“I’m not sure how I could be,” Cathy says, now looking visibly shaken.

“Cast your mind back to the evening that you were captured,” Harvey Dennis instructs. “Did you actually see Doctor Smith’s face?”

“Well…” Cathy tries to think. “It was dark. Possibly…”

“Possibly?” Harvey Dennis questions.

“I remember his voice!” Cathy urges.

“But you never saw his face?”

“It was so long ago,” Cathy sighs. “I really can’t remember. So much happened. I’ve tried to block out so much of what took place that night!”

“Do you remember being locked inside Doctor Smith’s basement?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“Vaguely,” Cathy tries to think back. “I remember Joanne being there.”

“Anything peculiar about Joanne?”

“No, only that she, too, had been captured by Doctor Smith.”

“Had she?” Harvey Dennis asks.

Cathy rubs her forehead again. “As far as I can remember. She thought that Sylvia Jessop was there.”

“Sylvia Jessop?” Harvey Dennis takes this in. “Joanne’s biological mother?”

“Yes, only she wasn’t actually there because she was killed years earlier.”

“Joanne was hallucinating?” Harvey Dennis peers over at the jury.

“Yes,” Cathy says, “but Doctor Smith had been drugging her.”

“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis says, “that the schizophrenia prescription you found was actually for Joanne.”

“Joanne?” Cathy is confused. “No, it had Doctor Smith’s name on it.”

“I put it to you, Cathy,” Harvey Dennis continues, “that Doctor Smith was treating Joanne Evans. Joanne Evans was the one that attacked you, Cathy, not Doctor Smith!”

“No!” Cathy screams out loud.

“Joanne Evans is the Poetry Predator!” Harvey Dennis bellows. “She’s been taking everyone for a ride!”


Joanne Evans wakes from her half sleep. She had been trying to get some much needed rest but found it difficult in the court cell in which she was located. She had been drifting in and out of sleep.

“Joanne,” she can hear the corrective services officer say to her. “There’s been some news from your father’s court case.”

“He is not my father!” Joanne says sternly.

“The jury came back with a verdict for Doctor Smith,” the corrective services officer continues.

“And?” Joanne’s heart suddenly races.

“Maybe Doctor Smith is not the Poetry Predator after all. He’s been found not guilty.”


Next Episode – Monday May 29

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Sixty-Seven

Episode 67

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Scorpio
[The 8th sign of the zodiac; a cool aloofness, with an underlying scorching, passionate nature]

9 years ago

Heather Strong steps closer to the car and looks inside the boot. A number of police officers surround her. At least five pairs of eyes gaze down into the car boot.

Before them, they see a sea of dark red. The interior of the car boot is covered with dried blood. A number of tools, including a hammer and wrench lay inside, also covered in blood.

Heather Strong gasps. The police officer standing closest to her grabs her arm.

“Heather Strong,” she hears one of the officers recite, “you are under arrest for your daughter’s murder.”


8 years ago

The courtroom is buzzing with the sound of intrigued and suspicious townsfolk. Heather Strong sits in the dock facing a jury of her peers.

The judge taps his gavel to bring the courtroom to a silence.

“Counsel,” the Judge addresses the defence barrister. “This trial has been going on for ten days. Is there any sign of it wrapping up in the near future?”

“Yes, your honour,” the defence barrister tells the judge. “But we have one more witness.”

There is a murmur throughout the courtroom.

“The defence calls on Mr Christian Strong to testify.”

There are gasps throughout the courtroom.

Heather Strong looks on as her estranged husband steps up into the witness stand and takes the oath.

“Mr Strong,” the defence barrister says, “can you tell the court about your relationship with the defendant?”

“Heather was a wonderful wife and we had a good life together.”

“Did something change that?”

“Our daughter, Phoebe, became sick,” Christian Strong explains. “I couldn’t cope with everything that was going on. I checked myself out of Heather’s life – I checked myself out of my own daughter’s life.”

“It must have been hard.”

“It was. But it must have been harder on Heather. She had to look after Phoebe on her own.”

Heather Strong sheds a tear.

“Do you believe your wife is capable of murder? Do you believe she killed your daughter?”

Christian Strong closes his eyes and pauses. He opens them and looks directly at Heather Strong. “It wasn’t Heather who murdered our daughter,” he explains. “It was me – I killed Phoebe.”

The silent courtroom is suddenly thrown into chaos.

The judge’s gavel banging onto the bench can be hardly heard through the shocked cries from the crowd.


3 years ago

She had lost everything.

Her husband.

Her daughter.

Her friends.

And now her name.

Heather Strong needed to move on. She could no longer cope with the daily insinuations about her daughter’s disappearance and murder.

Even though her husband had been charged and found guilty of her daughter’s murder, there were many people who believed that she still had some involvement. Besides, Phoebe Strong’s body had never been found, so suspicions and talk were rife right throughout the town of Holgate.

Heather Strong decided she needed to escape. She changed her name to Anna-Maree in the hope that she could disappear from everyone’s radar.

She moved to a small country town a few hours’ drive from Holgate where she could be anonymous. She worked on a small farm and lived a happy life, eventually meeting her future husband, Joseph Axe, a farmer.

Anna-Maree Axe had finally found peace. She always thought of her daughter, Phoebe, but at long last she didn’t have the whole town against her.

That was, of course, until some of the country folk got wind of a suspected child killer in their midst. The threats against Anna-Maree started mildly, but gradually became more serious.

From rotten eggs being thrown at their house, to petrol bombs destroying everything they owned, Anna-Maree knew it was time to move on again.

“We have to leave town,” Anna-Maree said to her husband.

“Whatever it takes for me to keep you safe,” Joseph replied.

Moving to Peppercorn Patch was Anna-Maree’s idea, and soon they were in the car headed towards safety.

“A new life,” Joseph said to his wife.

From her position in the passenger seat, Anna-Maree Axe gently touched her husband’s knee. Their car traveled around the curvy bends of Holgate’s Gap and passed the sign which told them they were almost at their destination. “Yes,” Anna-Maree agreed.

“We deserve it,” Joseph Axe added, steering the car around another sharp bend.

“I’m sorry for everything,” Anna-Maree said.

Joseph put his hand on his wife’s. “Don’t apologise,” he told her. “The main thing is we’re both safe now.”

“Yes,” Anna-Maree agreed.

“It’s a new life, remember,” Joseph reminded his wife.

“A new life,” Anna-Maree repeated.

“Our past is behind us.”


The night of the full moon

“You have to help me Constance!” Anna-Maree screams, pulling at Constance’s jacket.

“You shouldn’t have come back here.” Constance pushes Anna-Maree away from her. “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself involved in.”

“I found out the truth!” Anna-Maree screams again. “You have to help me!”

“Whatever happened, it can’t be fixed now.” Constance tries to leave again.

“Constance, Phoebe was never killed.”

“What?”

“Phoebe is alive,” Anna-Maree clarifies.

“I don’t understand.”

“I need to find her.”

“How am I supposed to help?” Constance asks, bewildered by the shocking news.

“She’s been here recently,” Anna-Maree explains.

“Who? Phoebe?” Constance asks.

“Yes, only you probably didn’t recognise her.”

“What are you saying, Heather?” Constance’s head is spinning.

“Joanne is in grave danger. Phoebe is not herself.”

“Not herself?”

“Everyone is in grave danger. Phoebe is ill and needs help,” Anna-Maree continues.

The still night is suddenly disrupted by the sound of a gunshot reverberating through the forest.

“That sounded like it came from the clifftop,” Constance says, exasperated.

“We need to find Phoebe before it’s too late,” Anna-Maree urges again.

“What has she done?”

“She’s out for revenge,” Anna-Maree finally explains. “Phoebe is out for revenge of anyone that stands in her way – only she’s not referring to herself as Phoebe any longer.”

“Not herself,” Constance nods in understanding.

“My daughter needs help. When was the last time you saw Melody Walker?”


Next Episode – Monday May 22

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander
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Episode Sixty-Six

Episode 66

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Libra
[the 7th sign of the zodiac; representing the element of air, or the intellect. A real thinker]

“I put it to you that you killed Thomas Helling, Joanne!” defence barrister Harvey Dennis bellows.

Joanne begins to cry. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t kill Thomas!”

“You killed Thomas to get back at him for killing your husband, Richard Evans!” Harvey Dennis tells the court. “It was a revenge killing!”

Joanne continues to cry, speaking through sobs. “You have it all wrong!” she cries out. “I didn’t kill Thomas!”

“What’s so wrong?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“I didn’t kill Thomas!” Joanne continues to sob. She tries to maintain her composure. “It was Kyle Cook who killed Thomas.”

“We’ve already established that you’re the only witness to that,” Harvey Dennis informs her. “How are we supposed to know what the truth is?”

“It is the truth.”

“Joanne, you are here today to act as a witness for the prosecution,” Harvey Dennis says. “Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You’re supposed to be testifying against Doctor Peter Smith?”

“Yes.”

“For violent crimes that he supposedly committed against you,” Harvey Dennis says.

“Not supposedly,” Joanne says. “He did these things to me.”

“Just answer yes or no, Joanne.” Harvey Dennis is growing impatient.

“Yes,” Joanne complies.

“Forgive me, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis goes on, “but all that you have delivered today is a whole bunch of lies and misinformation to this court.”

“I’m not making it up.” Joanne is exhausted.

“Starting with your fascination with the men in your life,” Harvey Dennis reminds her, “and the suspicious circumstances of their deaths. What about your non-disclosure to Kyle Cook about the real identity of your child’s father.”

Joanne says nothing. She is too upset.

“I put it to you that you weren’t attacked by Doctor Peter Smith, Joanne. It was all part of your story. Your web of lies. You fed these to the people around you, including your friend, Cathy Gilmore.”

“She was attacked too,” Joanne tells him.

“Attacked by who, Joanne?” Harvey Dennis asks. Before Joanne can answer, he jumps in for her. “Cathy wasn’t attacked by Doctor Smith, Joanne, she was attacked by you. You and your story again, spinning your web of lies.”

“I never attacked her,” Joanne replies, offended. “She’s my best friend.”

“Maybe she was working with you, then,” Harvey Dennis offers.

“This is all too cruel!” Joanne cries out.

“Cruel?” Harvey Dennis says, mockingly. “I’ll tell you what’s cruel, Joanne. There’s a woman out there,” he points into the crowded courtroom at Constance Helling, “who doesn’t know what happened to her son!”

“He was killed by Kyle Cook,” Joanne says, her breathing starting to become heavy.

“Was he, Joanne?” Harvey Dennis bellows. “If so, where is he now? Where is the body of Thomas Helling?”


The night of the full moon

The explosion rings in Joanne’s ears and she feels her face being splattered with warm, sticky blood. The smell of gun powder is overpowering.

“My final act of revenge.” Joanne smiles, looking down at Kyle Cook’s crumpled body. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

Retribution.

Joanne Evans drops the gun. She lets out a deep breath. She cries. She collapses to the ground.

As Joanne lies on the ground, her head spins. She can taste the metallic blood on her lips.

Joanne rolls herself onto her back. The tears suddenly stop as she looks up into the night sky. The full moon has made it particularly bright tonight. She can no longer hear herself breathing. She feels rested, relaxed. At peace. She half smiles. She may never live the same life again, she thinks to herself, but she feels strong at last. She had finally found a way to protect herself.

Joanne’s peace is suddenly interrupted as a shadow looms above her. She tries to scream, but only a small exhale of air escapes.

Before her, in the moonlight, stands a ghost. No, Joanne realises, not a ghost, but an angel. Her guardian angel.

The angel reaches down to help Joanne to her feet. “You did it, Joanne,” Thomas Helling says to her. “You saved yourself.”

“Thomas?” Joanne says, exasperated. The word only just leaves her mouth.

Thomas pulls Joanne to her feet. He holds her steady for a moment, before wiping the bloody splatter from her face. “Me in the flesh,” he smiles at her.

“But, how?” Joanne is bewildered, remembering the gunshot that had killed him only a few minutes earlier.

Thomas laughs slightly, before lifting his shirt and revealing the bullet proof vest underneath. “I came prepared,” he tells Joanne. “The impact of the bullet knocked me out for a bit, but I came to just in time to see your almighty climax!”

“You’re insane!” Joanne says, punching him in the arm. They stare at each other for a moment, before a big grin erupts over Thomas’ face.

“You did it, Joanne!” he says to her again.

They both begin to giggle, and it suddenly turns into laughter.

“Who’s insane now?” Thomas says to her.

Joanne suddenly stops laughing, and a fear grabs hold of her.


“Joanne?” Harvey Dennis says.

Joanne realises she was lost in her memory. She shakes herself out of her thoughts and gives the barrister her attention. “Sorry.”

“You claim that Kyle Cook killed Thomas Helling, but there has been no sighting of his body. Where is Thomas Helling’s body?”


The night of the full moon

“What is it, Joanne?” Thomas asks.

“They’re going to arrest me and lock me away,” she tells him. “I’ll never see baby Ricky again.”

“You can’t confess, Joanne,” Thomas says.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t say a word to anyone,” Thomas adds. “If they ask, tell them I did it.”

“I can’t let you take the blame,” Joanne says. “I did this, I need to take responsibility for it.”

“I have nothing to lose, Joanne,” Thomas insists. “Please allow me to do this for you.”

“Kyle deserved to die!” Joanne says adamantly. “I’d kill him again given the chance!”

“Joanne,” Thomas pleads with her, “don’t go ruining your life because of something this bastard did to you. If nothing else, you deserve more. I need to make things up to you for the hell I put you through.”

Joanne sighs, and continues to wipe off the splattered blood. “Thomas, I’ll tell everyone you were killed by Kyle. I’ll tell them I acted in self-defence. I killed Kyle after he killed you.”

“Joanne, please…”

“I won’t hear anything more of it,” Joanne says stubbornly. “You need to leave now, Thomas. Leave now or you’ll never get out of this town alive. Everyone will be looking for blood, looking for someone to blame. They’ll come after you, Thomas. You’ll never get a fair trial.”

“Joanne…”

“Go, now!” Joanne orders him.

Thomas reaches his hand out to his sister, but she turns her back to him.

“Now, Thomas,” Joanne says again. Thomas disappears through the trees. Joanne tries to hold back tears.


“The last time I saw Thomas he was lying dead on the ground,” Joanne tells Harvey Dennis. “After that it was all such a blur. I don’t remember much.”

“Another lie?” Harvey Dennis says.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Joanne adds.

“Joanne, are you referring to the events leading up to Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook’s death?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“Yes,” Joanne says, quietly.

“Interesting turn of events,” Harvey Dennis adds.

“Yes.”

“So, just how did Constable Kyle Cook die?”

Before Joanne can answer the question, there is movement from the Judge’s bench. “Counsel,” the Judge says, “this is a matter that will need to be dealt with later on.”

“I understand, your Honour,” Harvey Dennis agrees.

“Any more questions for the witness?” the Judge asks.

“No further questions, your Honour,” Harvey Dent says.

“Thank you for your time here today, Ms Evans,” the Judge says to Joanne.

Joanne nods quickly towards the Judge. She rises to her feet as a dull murmur erupts across the crowded courtroom.

As she steps down from the witness podium, a corrective services officer puts a hand on her arm and leads her out of the court.

“Counsel, that is a matter that will need to be dealt with later on,” Joanne recounts the Judge’s words.

Yes, Joanne thinks to herself, the matter will be dealt with in another trial – the trial of Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook’s murder.

Joanne is led out of the courtroom. The onlookers can’t help but notice the handcuffs secured around her wrists.


Next Episode – Monday May 15

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander instagram@grey418 facebook logoThe Drawn

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Episode Sixty-Five

Episode 65

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Virgo
[The 6th sign of the zodiac, demonstrating perfectionism, diligence and first-class service]

“I put it to you that you are lying, Joanne!” Defence criminal barrister Harvey Dennis roars. “You’ve been lying your whole life! Your whole life has been a lie! You trap people in your web and play the victim!”

“That’s not true!”

“This jury will believe it is, Joanne.”

“I’m not lying!” Joanne says again, exasperated. “My father, Doctor Peter Smith, is the Poetry Predator, and he should be punished for his crimes!”

Joanne looks over to the courtroom dock. Through the tears in her eyes, she can see the accused sitting handcuffed. Doctor Peter Smith looks back at Joanne and gives her a menacing smile.

Joanne’s body shakes as she takes another deep breath.

“I put it to you, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues to berate her, “that the attack never happened! You concocted this whole story as a way to get back at Doctor Smith.”

“A way to get back at him?” Joanne asks, perplexed. “Get back at him for what?”

“You found out he was your biological father,” Harvey Dennis explains. “You had been lied to your whole life by everyone around you. You finally found out the truth and you weren’t happy about it. You were out for revenge.”

Joanne shifts nervously in her seat again. Doctor Peter Smith continues to grimace menacingly at her from the dock. “That’s not true.”

“You swore an oath, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis reminds her, “to tell the truth.”

“I am telling the truth!”

Defence barrister Harvey Dennis takes a moment to shuffle through his numerous notes, before turning and smiling politely at the members of the jury. He takes the glasses off his face and rubs his eyes. “You lied to Constable Kyle Cook about your baby, didn’t you, Joanne?”

Joanne closes her eyes. She can hear the gunshot reverberating through her head and the metallic smell of blood splattered across her face. Retribution.

“I didn’t know it wasn’t Kyle’s,” Joanne offers. “Not until I had a paternity test.”

“And the test showed it was your late husband, Richard’s, baby?” Harvey Dennis inquires.

“Yes.”

“So you lied to Kyle Cook?”

“I didn’t lie to him. I didn’t know,” Joanne says.

“You expect the court to believe that you didn’t know that you were pregnant before your husband was killed?”

“I didn’t,” Joanne says, trying to remain strong. She closes her eyes and her mind flashes back to her final moments with Kyle Cook.

“You can’t even do basic maths,” Joanne laughs at Kyle again.

“What are you talking about?” Kyle asks.

“My pregnancy!” Joanne tries to spell it out. “I became pregnant to make my plan even more believable. You thought the baby was yours, but it’s not.”

“You’re psychotic!” Kyle sniggers.

“It couldn’t have been Richard’s because I wasn’t pregnant when he died,” Joanne adds. “So you believed it was yours. But Richard had frozen some sperm a few months back before he died. We did it just in case, and it was one of the best things we ever did. Little Ricky is certainly my little miracle baby – Richard’s miracle baby.”

“You don’t deserve me!” Kyle screams, deciding that he’s heard enough.

Joanne Evans steps up face to face with Kyle Cook.

“The perfect illusion.” Joanne feels strong.

“I honestly believed the baby was Kyle’s,” Joanne says to the court. “Richard and I had been trying for a few months before he died, unsuccessfully.”

“You were successful, it seems,” Harvey Dennis points out.

“I wasn’t lying,” Joanne says again, attempting to plead her innocence.

“Tell me about the accident, Joanne.” Harvey Dennis decides to move on.

“Thomas’ accident?” Joanne asks. “I don’t remember much. It all seems such a blur now.”

“How convenient.”

“I mean, I remember Thomas driving along the road, and then swerving suddenly. I think it was a kangaroo, but I can hardly remember.” Joanne tries her best to recount the events of almost ten years earlier.

“You managed to escape the river unharmed?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“Only just,” Joanne agrees. “If it wasn’t for Richard and Kyle, both Thomas and I would probably have died…”

“…Richard and Kyle,” Harvey Dent sniggers. “It still fascinates me that all three of your lovers were, at that particular point in time, all together.”

“Fate, I suppose,” Joanne considers.

“Fate?” Harvey Dennis almost laughs. “All three of those men are now dead, Joanne! Is that fate too?”

“Objection!” the prosecutor interjects. “Your Honour, this witness has clearly given all the answers she can.”

“Counsel, get to your point,” the Judge instructs Harvey Dennis.

“Certainly, your Honour,” Harvey Dennis says. “Joanne, what else have you lied about?”


Six months ago

Thomas bent down and rested a hand on Joanne’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Joanne,” he said, “I’m not here to hurt you.”

“Kyle,” Joanne pointed to Inspector Manning’s body. “Kyle did this.”

Thomas pulled Joanne in close to him. “He will pay for everything he’s done to you.”

“Please tell me what happened to Richard.” Joanne began to cry. Out of fear or out of a sense of relief, she did not know. “I need to know the truth.”

Thomas pulled Joanne up and held her close to him. “He manipulated me, Joanne. You can probably never forgive me, but I never intended to hurt you, or Richard.”

“Did you kill Richard?” Joanne cried.

“It was Kyle. He thought he could get away with it.”

“I think I knew all along,” Joanne was suddenly still. “Deep down I knew.”

“You need to protect yourself, Joanne.”

“I can handle myself,” Joanne said to Thomas. “I’ve been looking after myself for a long time now.”

“He’s dangerous,” Thomas warned her. “Please be careful.”

Joanne looked down at the half buried body of Inspector Wesley Manning. “We need to move this body,” Joanne suddenly said.

“Joanne?” Thomas asked curiously.

“We need to have control of Kyle. The only way we can do it is by making him second guess himself. We will break him down mentally.”

“You really think this will work?” Thomas asked.

“I’ve already started to slip Kyle some of my Aunty’s pain medication. I’ve been crushing it up into his food.”

“He’s delusional already. Are you sure it won’t make things worse?”

“We won’t know if we don’t try,” Joanne informed Thomas. “He’s already starting to show signs of weakness. He’s bound to confess to me one day.”

“Don’t worry about this body,” Thomas said, starting to push the dirt away from Inspector Manning’s body, “I’ll sort it out. It’ll be moved by the morning.”

“Thank you, Thomas,” Joanne smiled timidly at her brother.

“Please forgive me, Joanne,” Thomas pleaded. “I never wanted to hurt you, or Richard.”

Without responding, Joanne turned and walked away.


“Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says again, “what else have you lied about?”

Joanne clears her throat. “Nothing.”

“You say that Thomas Helling was killed in front of you?” Harvey Dennis continues.

“Yes.”

“Killed by who?”

“Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook,” Joanne offers.

“Whom you were romantically involved with?”

“Yes.”

“Whom is also now deceased?”

“Yes.”

“Whom is no longer here to defend himself?”

“I guess not.”

“Joanne,” Harvey Dent says, beginning to become louder, “you’re the only person living to witness Kyle Cook killing Thomas Helling?”

“Yes.”

Harvey Dennis roars furiously. “You expect this court to believe your lies, Joanne?”


The night of the full moon

“Put the gun down, Thomas,” Joanne whispers to Thomas. “You don’t want to hurt anyone else.”

Thomas sobs, allowing Joanne to guide the gun to the ground. Once it touches the ground, she kicks in the direction of the shrubbery.

Thomas continues to sob. “Don’t believe him, Joanne.”

Joanne Evans reaches out her hand to take Thomas’. She feels compelled to comfort him. She wants to forgive him.

“Thomas,” Kyle Cook says. Joanne and Thomas both look up towards Kyle, his police-issued handgun pointing in their direction. “You’re never going to hurt anyone again.”

With that, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook fires his handgun. The bullets rip through Thomas. Joanne watches on as her brother is killed instantly.


“I’m not lying,” Joanne says again.

“I put it to you that you killed Thomas Helling, Joanne!” Harvey Dennis bellows.

Joanne begins to cry. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t kill Thomas!”

“You killed Thomas to get back at him for killing your husband, Richard Evans!” Harvey Dennis tells the court. “It was a revenge killing!”

Joanne continues to cry, speaking through sobs. “You have it all wrong!” she cries out. “I didn’t kill Thomas!”


The night of the full moon

Joanne Evans raises the handgun and shoves it into Kyle’s chest. The cold barrel clinks on one of his buttons.

“Joanne?”

The explosion rings in Joanne’s ears and she feels her face being splattered with warm, sticky blood. The smell of gun powder is overpowering.

“My final act of revenge.” Joanne smiles, looking down at Kyle Cook’s crumpled body. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

Retribution.

Joanne Evans drops the gun. She lets out a deep breath. She cries. She collapses to the ground.

As Joanne lies on the ground, her head spins. She can taste the metallic blood on her lips.

Joanne rolls herself onto her back. The tears suddenly stop as she looks up into the night sky. The full moon has made it particularly bright tonight. She can no longer hear herself breathing. She feels rested, relaxed. At peace. She half smiles. She may never live the same life again, she thinks to herself, but she feels strong at last. She had finally found a way to protect herself.

Joanne’s peace is suddenly interrupted as a shadow looms above her. She tries to scream, but only a small exhale of air escapes.

Before her, in the moonlight, stands a ghost. No, Joanne realises, not a ghost, but an angel. Her guardian angel.

The angel reaches down to help Joanne to her feet. “You did it, Joanne,” Thomas Helling says to her. “You saved yourself.”


Next Episode – Monday May 8

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander instagram@grey418 facebook logoThe Drawn

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Episode Sixty-Four

Episode 63

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Leo
[The 5th sign of the zodiac; fixed, hot, positive, masculine and dry]

The night of the full moon

Joanne takes in small breaths, making sure that she doesn’t make any noise. Her body is still frozen.

“It will all be over soon, Joanne!” Kyle calls out in the darkness.

In the moonlight, Joanne sees something glisten under the shrubbery. She pushes herself forward and reaches down, grabbing the object. She can feel the cold metal of Thomas’ handgun. She holds it firmly in her hands.

Joanne Evans suddenly feels brave.

“It was all a lie!” Joanne calls out, stepping out of her hiding spot.

“You’ve come to your senses,” Kyle remarks, turning in the direction of Joanne’s voice.

“I never loved you!”

“You lie,” Kyle scoffs. “You needed me.”

“You thought I wouldn’t remember,” Joanne continues, walking towards Kyle, the handgun hidden at her side. “You thought I wouldn’t remember that you were the one who attacked me in my own home. You crushed my legs with a cricket bat and left me for dead in that burning house.”

“I rescued you from that burning house, Joanne,” Kyle argues.

“After deforming me!” Joanne screams. “You thought you would be the hero!”

“I am the hero!” He sees Joanne, illuminated by the moonlight, walking towards him.

“But guess what, Kyle?” Joanne berates him. “I remembered! I’ve always remembered! I swore to seek vengeance on you because I knew that you had something to do with my husband’s death. That’s why I never stopped looking for Thomas – to find out the truth. That’s why I kept you close to me. That’s why I became your lover!”

“You’re crazy!”

“Maybe I am,” Joanne laughs. “I’ve had my eye on you from the beginning. And you never suspected a thing!”

“You’re just saying that now! You’re making this whole thing up!”

“You can’t even do basic maths,” Joanne laughs again.

“What are you talking about?”

“My pregnancy!” Joanne tries to spell it out. “I became pregnant to make my plan even more believable. You thought the baby was yours, but it’s not.”

“You’re psychotic!” Kyle sniggers.

“It couldn’t have been Richard’s because I wasn’t pregnant when he died,” Joanne adds. “So you believed it was yours. But Richard had frozen some sperm a few months back before he died. We did it just in case, and it was one of the best things we ever did. Little Ricky is certainly my little miracle baby – Richard’s miracle baby.”

“You don’t deserve me!” Kyle screams, deciding that he’s heard enough.

Joanne Evans steps up face to face with Kyle Cook.

“The perfect illusion.” Joanne feels strong.

“You think you’re so clever,” Kyle snarls.

“This one is for Inspector Manning. This one is for Thomas. This one is for Richard. This one is for my baby, Sylvia. This one is for Ricky. This one is for me!”

Joanne Evans raises the handgun and shoves it into Kyle’s chest. The cold barrel clinks on one of his buttons.

“Joanne?”

The explosion rings in Joanne’s ears and she feels her face being splattered with warm, sticky blood. The smell of gun powder is overpowering.

“My final act of revenge.” Joanne smiles, looking down at Kyle Cook’s crumpled body. “It’s been a long time in the making.”

Retribution.

Joanne Evans drops the gun. She lets out a deep breath. She cries. She collapses to the ground.


Six months later

The courtroom is packed.

There is not a single seat left in the crowded courtroom, with journalists having to stand against the back wall, their pens scribbling down notes furiously as they listen to the proceeding.

There is silence as Joanne Evans appears and takes her place in the witness stand. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She realises she has to stay strong. She has been so strong up to this point, she tells herself.

“Can you please state your full name for the court,” the criminal barrister instructs Joanne after she has been sworn in.

“Joanne Annette Evans,” Joanne replies.

“And where is your normal place of residence?”

“Peppercorn Patch,” Joanne says, almost inaudibly.

“You’ll have to speak up, Joanne,” the criminal barrister, Harvey Dennis, tells her.

“Peppercorn Patch,” Joanne repeats, louder this time.

“Tell me about your relationship with Thomas Helling,” Harvey Dennis inquires.

“Thomas?” Joanne is confused.

“Yes, Thomas Helling. Tell the court about your relationship with Thomas Helling.”

“We were childhood friends,” Joanne begins. “We grew up together and Thomas was there for me when my father, Benjamin Pickering, died. He helped me through some rough times. I was only 10 years old when my father died.”

“Were you ever more than just friends?” Harvey Dennis prods.

“We dated in high school and Thomas finally asked me out before our high school formal,” Joanne recounts.

“So you were boyfriend and girlfriend?”

“Yes, we were going out.”

“Why did you end the relationship?” Harvey Dennis pushes even harder.

Joanne closes her eyes and the vision of the light green Ford Cortina belonging to Thomas’ father, Douglas Lawson, careening into the dark river flashes through her mind.

“It was an accident that destroyed our relationship. Thomas was in a coma for months and I no longer loved him the same way.” Joanne can hear the beat of her own heart drumming through her head.

“An accident, you say?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“Yes, Thomas swerved to miss a kangaroo and the car crashed into the river. He was lucky to survive. We both were.”

“It intrigues me that on that fateful night,” Harvey Dennis says, preparing for his king hit, “that the three men in your life were all there.”

“I don’t follow,” Joanne says, almost inaudibly again.

“Who rescued you, Joanne?” Harvey Dennis asks. “Who rescued you and Thomas Helling from that river?

Joanne begins to shake. “Richard Evans and his three friends.”

“Richard Evans?” Harvey Dennis almost laughs. “Your future husband?”

Joanne wants to run from the courtroom and cry. “Yes, we became close after the accident.”

“What happened to Richard Evans?”

Joanne closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “He was killed.”

“Killed by Thomas Helling?”

“Supposedly,” Joanne sighs.

“Killed by Thomas Helling in a jealous rage,” Harvey Dennis informs the court.

Joanne says nothing. She stares blankly at the crowded courtroom.

“But you weren’t finished there, were you?” Harvey Dennis continues.

“I don’t understand your question,” Joanne says.

“You began a relationship with another one of your rescuers?”

“Yes, Constable Kyle Cook.”

“Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook, is that correct?”

“Yes,” Joanne says quietly.

“Who is also now deceased?” Harvey Dennis prepares for his final blow.

Joanne lets out a deep sigh and nods her head.

“We need an answer from you for the record, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis informs her.

“Yes, Kyle Cook is deceased.”

“This doesn’t look good for you, does it Joanne?” Harvey Dennis asks.

“I’ve had my fair share of misfortune,” Joanne says.

“Fair share?” Harvey Dennis laughs. “Joanne, do you seriously believe a jury is going to consider that all of these things were out of your control?”

Joanne shuffles uneasily in her seat. She tries hard to hold back the tears waiting to explode over her face.

“Tell me about your father, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues.

“Benjamin Pickering?” Joanne asks. “He died when I was 10 years old.”

“No,” Harvey Dennis stops her. “Your biological father, Peter Smith.”

Joanne’s face suddenly changes from sadness to anger. “He will never be my father.”

“You’ve accused him of some pretty horrible crimes, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues to prod.

“He attacked me!” The court can now hear Joanne loud and clear. “He would have killed me given the chance!”

“That’s a pretty strong allegation you’re making, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says to her.

“It’s true! He’s a monster!”

“But, you see, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says, preparing for another blow, “all of your stories are hard to believe.”

“I swear it’s the truth!” Joanne’s anger is building.

“It’s hard to see where the truth lies and the fantasies begin, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis says smugly. “Your life is a colourful drama. You live for the drama. You long for it.”

“He’s a monster!” Joanne shouts, the tears escaping finally.

The courtroom judge leans towards Joanne and tells her to take a minute to compose herself.  Joanne indicates to him that she wants to continue.

“Joanne,” Harvey Dennis continues, “this is a very serious offence.”

“I know.”

“I’m not referring to your accusations, Joanne,” Harvey Dennis informs her. “I’m referring to your lies to this court.”

“I’m not lying!” Joanne yells.

“Well, I put it to you that you are, Joanne!” Harvey Dennis yells back at her. “You’ve been lying your whole life! Your whole life has been a lie! You trap people in your web and play the victim!”

“That’s not true!”

“This jury will believe it is, Joanne.”

“I’m not lying!” Joanne says again, exasperated. “My father, Doctor Peter Smith, is the Poetry Predator, and he should be punished for his crimes!”

Joanne looks over to the courtroom dock. Through the tears in her eyes, she can see the accused sitting handcuffed. Doctor Peter Smith looks back at Joanne and gives her a menacing smile.

Joanne’s body shakes as she takes another deep breath.


Next Episode – Monday May 1

Theme Music Composed by Ian Camilleri Music

Episode Illustration by Grey Alexander instagram@grey418 facebook logoThe Drawn

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