Episode Sixty-One

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


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. She doesn’t notice him.

Sergeant Anders waits for her patiently. She must notice that he’s standing there soon enough.

As he waits, he looks around the reception area. On the walls, he sees photos of the newspaper’s staff. They smile back at him as if they are welcoming him. He scans the photos quickly and sees a familiar face. Amber Harp smiles back at him from her place on the wall. Amber Harp. Crime Reporter.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist finally acknowledges Michael’s presence. “We’re just about to close for the evening.”

“I need to speak to someone in charge,” Michael offers.

“I’m in charge of reception,” the receptionist says, deadpan, not taking her eyes off of her computer screen. “What do you want?”

Michael senses he is not going to get far with the woman. “I’m a police officer investigating the disappearance of one of your employees, Amber Harp.”

“Amber Harp?” she asks, suddenly interested. “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.”

Anna-Maree Axe sits on her bed. In front of her, strewn across it, is the paperwork that she had taken from the deposit box when she had visited the local bank. She pushes the paperwork to the floor as she rummages through it, still unable to find what she has been looking for.

“Where is it?” she says to herself, impatiently.

There is a knock at the locked bedroom door. Her husband. “Anna?” Joseph Axe calls out. “Are you still sleeping? I’ve made some dinner if you want some.”

Anna-Maree hurriedly collects the paperwork strewn across the room and dumps it into the wooden chest sitting next to the bed. She throws a blanket on the top of the paper and closes the chest’s lid.

“How long have I been asleep for?” Anna-Maree feigns, opening the door groggily.

“About an hour,” Joseph replies, hugging his wife.

“You’re such a good husband,” Anna-Maree says. “Thanks for dinner. I might grab a bite to eat later, but I just need to go for a walk.”

“Sure, honey,” Joseph says. “Don’t be too late.”

“I’m so lucky to have you,” Anna-Maree says, grabbing a coat off the stand and exiting the front door.

“Marry me, Joanne,” Kyle Cook says. He takes Joanne Evans’ hand and squeezes it gently.

“Kyle, I don’t know what to say…” Joanne stutters.

“Just say yes, Joanne,” Kyle says to her. “Make me a happy man and say yes.”

“I don’t know,” Joanne says to him, taking the ring out of the glass with her fingers.

“You don’t want to marry me?” Kyle asks. “You don’t want to make me happy?”

“I just don’t know if I can get married again, after losing Richard.”

“I’m not Richard.” Kyle puts his hand on her elbow to comfort her.

“I know,” she says faintly, looking off into the sunset. She catches herself quickly, returning his gaze and smiling politely. “I’ve just been through so much. I’m just not sure about anything anymore.”

“I was afraid you’d say no,” Kyle sulks. “So maybe you need some coercion.”

Anna-Maree steps down to the water’s edge. It was the same meeting point that she had used to meet up with her old acquaintance when she first arrived in town. Next to the river. In the dark. She hoped that no-one could see her.

“Thank you for meeting with me again,” Anna-Maree says when her guest arrives.

“I don’t have time for this,” her acquaintance huffs.

“I have to know where it is,” Anna-Maree pleads. “I know that you’ve taken it.”

“You shouldn’t have come back.” Her acquaintance goes to move off. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I need to know,” Anna-Maree continues to plead. “Don’t just walk away from me!”

“Some things are just better left alone.”

Anna-Maree steps towards her acquaintance and pulls them around to face her. She pushes the hood of their jacket off in desperation.

Constance Helling stares back at Anna-Maree Axe.

“Constance,” Anna-Maree pleads. “For Joanne’s sake, you need to tell me where it is.”

“Get your hands off of me!” Joanne cries out, trying to stand up.

“Oh, Joanne, honey,” Kyle laughs, “I was just joking around with you.”

“Not funny, Kyle,” Joanne reprimands, pushing her lover away from her.

From behind them, Kyle and Joanne both hear a sound. The sound of leaves and twigs cracking under foot.

“Who is it?” Joanne says, panicked. The sun is gone and it is now dark apart from the few candles now lighting the picnic rug.

Kyle jumps up and takes hold of Joanne, trying to comfort her.

“You heard her,” they hear a voice from amongst the trees. “Let go of her!”

“Thomas?” Kyle asks, and begins to laugh nervously. “Is that you?”

Joanne sees Thomas Helling step forward through the trees. His face is illuminated by the dull glow of the candles. She is suddenly feeling terrified.

“Let her go, you bastard!” Thomas screams at Kyle.

“Don’t move any closer,” Kyle warns. “Joanne knows how dangerous you are!”

Joanne almost can’t breathe. She releases herself from Kyle’s hold and collapses on her knees onto the ground.

“Joanne!” Thomas yells. “Don’t believe anything he says to you!”

“Shut up, you evil monster!” Kyle yells back at him. “Why would she believe you? You killed her husband!”

“You know that’s not what happened!” Thomas yells. “Don’t believe him Joanne!”

Joanne continues to pant heavily. She looks up at Thomas and notices the handgun he is holding. “Thomas, please don’t.”

“Joanne,” Thomas steps closer to her. “I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I said stay back!” Kyle screams out loud, his voice echoing through the valley. “You’ve already hurt Joanne, and I’m not about to let you do it again!”

Joanne sees the tears in Thomas’ eyes. She reaches out to touch him.

“You’re my sister, Joanne,” Thomas says softly. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“What!?” Kyle says incredulously. “What’s he saying Joanne?”

Joanne ignores Kyle and reaches further out to Thomas. “I know,” she says to her biological brother. Before he knows it, she reaches for the handgun. Thomas grabs Joanne’s hand, struggling at first, then stopping and gazing into her eyes. Tears flow.

“Put the gun down, Thomas,” Joanne whispers to him. “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.

“No! Stop!” Joanne screams. She runs towards Kyle, narrowly missing being shot herself.

Kyle drops his gun and reaches out for Joanne. He holds her firm within his grasp. She kicks her body around, screaming.

“It’s okay,” Kyle says to Joanne, trying to hush her. “He won’t be able to hurt you ever again. I’m here, it’s okay.”

Joanne pants heavily, finding it hard to breathe.

“Now,” Kyle smiles at her, “how about saying yes to my marriage proposal?”

Thanks again for another year of your support!

Full Moon. Full Circle. October 31.

Episode Sixty

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


“I can’t be trusted with a baby,” Valerie Pickering cries.

Joanne Evans is startled awake by the screams of the woman in the room next to her. She pulls herself out of bed and steps into the darkness towards her aunt’s bedroom.

“Aunty Val,” Joanne whispers into the room. “Are you okay?”

“Joanne, honey,” Valerie cries. “I can’t be trusted with a baby.”

Joanne switches on the bedside table and lays down on the bed next to her aunt, putting her hands around her for comfort. “It’s okay, Aunty Val,” Joanne says. “It’s going to be okay.”

Joanne wonders when the side effects of the pain medication that her aunt is taking will end. She has seen her aunt struggle with hallucinations and paranoia ever since she had her operation to remove her kidneys.

“You don’t understand, Jo,” Valerie says, seriously. “Don’t give me your baby.”

“It’s okay, Aunty Val,” Joanne tries to hush her aunt. She is worried that the loud noise will wake her son, Ricky.

“I couldn’t look after my own baby,” Valerie continues.

“Your own baby?” Joanne asks. “You never had a baby, Aunty Val.”

“I couldn’t look after my own baby,” Valerie repeats.

Soon, Valerie falls back asleep. Joanne carefully gets up from the bed and turns off the lamp. She makes her way slowly through the darkness in the direction of her own bed. As she reaches the doorway to Valerie’s room, the room is suddenly filled with light.

Joanne looks around to see that her aunt has switched on the lamp.

“Don’t let me look after your baby, Joanne,” Valerie repeats. “I couldn’t look after my own son.”

“Your son?”

“I tried to get him back, Jo, I really did try.”

“What are you talking about Aunty Val?”

“My son. I tried, but I was a bad mother. Michael Anders has a bad mother.”

He throws a suitcase into the back of his car. On top of it, he throws in a pillow and sleeping bag.

“Where are you going?” Joanne asks.

“I need to go find her,” Sergeant Michael Anders says.

“She left with her family, Michael,” Joanne explains. “I think you need to let her go.”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Sergeant Anders says. “None of it makes any sense at all. Why wouldn’t she have told me?”

“Some people do some really strange things – trust me.”

“Besides, she left me this note.” Sergeant Anders reaches into his pocket and pulls out the piece of paper that his lover, Amber Harp, had left him.

It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me,” Joanne reads the letter out loud. “What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling she’s in trouble.”

“Why did she leave then?” Joanne tries to make sense of the situation.

“I don’t know, Joanne,” Michael says, frustrated. “I don’t know, but maybe she does need my help.”

“Where do you even start looking?”

“I’m going to start at her place in Holgate. I’ll go check it out and see if anyone’s been there.” Sergeant Anders closes the boot of the car and walks around to open the driver’s side door.

“I wanted to ask you…” Joanne starts, but stops herself.

“What is it?”

“I wanted to ask you about your parents.” Joanne can’t help herself.

“Strange question,” Sergeant Anders says, looking at Joanne, perplexed.

“I know, sorry, it’s just that…do you talk to them?”

“Joanne, I was in foster care my whole childhood. I never had parents.”

“Oh,” Joanne is thrown. “You never met them?”

“No, Joanne,” Sergeant Anders huffs. “Where is this going?”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Joanne suddenly says. She realises that it is not the time to tell him of her discovery. “I was just interested, that’s all.”

“Take care of yourself and Ricky, Joanne,” Sergeant Anders says, sitting in the driver’s seat.

“Please stay safe,” Joanne offers her friend as he starts the car.

“I’ll be fine, Joanne,” Sergeant Anders says. “I’m leaving Kyle Cook in charge of the police station while I’m away, so you’ll be safe until I return.”

Joanne smiles hesitantly at him.

With that, Sergeant Michael Anders heads off and begins his mission to find his lover.

“Over here,” Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook motions. Joanne Evans walks up to the top of the cliff and looks down at the spread in front of her.

Kyle Cook is seated on a picnic rug located at the top of the cliff. On the rug she can see an array of food, plates and cutlery. Kyle points to the view of the small town below them. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

The sun, Joanne can see, is beginning to set over the trees in the distance. The sky is a bright pink colour. “Gorgeous,” she replies.

Kyle hands Joanne a glass of freshly poured champagne and she takes a seat on the picnic rug.

“Cheers,” Kyle taps Joanne’s glass. “To us.”

“To us,” Joanne repeats before taking a sip. “This is delicious.”

“Only the best for you, my love.”

Kyle notices that the sunlight is fading, so he lights a few candles.

“It’s been eighteen months, you know,” Kyle remarks.

“I’m sorry?”

“Eighteen months, Joanne, since we’ve been together.”

“Oh, yes,” Joanne acknowledges. “How could I forget?”

“What’s wrong?” Kyle reaches up and touches her face.

“Nothing,” Joanne lies.

Joanne can’t help but think about her late husband, Richard. He had been killed by Thomas Helling just over eighteen months ago. She couldn’t forget. She had been keeping a secret from Kyle, too. Her son, Ricky, was fathered by Richard, not Kyle, as she had lead him to believe. How she longed for Richard again.

She sighs heavily. She had been through so much.

She had been attacked by Thomas Helling.

Her husband had been murdered.

She had been kidnapped by The Poetry Predator.

She had hallucinations of The Woman in Red.

The real identity of her parents were revealed.

She had almost been killed in an explosion that destroyed her Aunt’s business.

She had lost one of her children.

She had almost lost her mind.

Joanne Evans wants life to be normal. She wants to love Kyle Cook. She wants things to be normal with him so that she can move on with the rest of her life. With Kyle. With her son, Ricky.

“I love you, Joanne,” Kyle says, taking a sip of champagne.

Joanne does the same and this time notices something in her glass. She squints beyond the bubbles and notices something gold on the inside. A ring.

“What…?” Joanne is unsure.

“Marry me, Joanne,” Kyle says to Joanne.

He takes her hand and squeezes it gently. “Kyle, I don’t know what to say…” Joanne stutters.

“Just say yes, Joanne,” Kyle says to her. “Make me a happy man and say yes.”

Final Episode – Thursday October 20

Episode Fifty-Nine

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


June, 1983

“It was over here,” a 22-year-old Constance Helling says to Father Bolton, leading him to the location where she had attacked Henrietta Smart.

They both step timidly through the dark forest, the glow of the flashlights leading the way.

Constance shines her light over near the rocks and sees Henry’s bicycle glimmer. “She’s over here,” Constance says.

Father Bolton steps over closer to the bicycle and uses his flashlight to search the forest floor. “Where is she?”

“I don’t understand,” Constance says, her flashlight darting quickly around. “She hit her head here.”

“She’s not here, Constance,” Father Bolton states. “Maybe you were mistaken, child.”

“I know what I saw!”

“Come on,” Father Bolton says. “Let’s head back. We can search for her in the morning. She might have returned home.”

Without saying another word, Constance Helling and Father Bolton begin their trek back out of the forest.

Father Bolton sees Constance Helling back to her mother’s caravan. Once he knows that she is safe within the confines of the caravan park, he heads back to his own house.

He walks along the path surrounding the local church and steps through the church’s small garden. His small house is located at the rear of the church. As he walks past the front steps of the church, he can hear a murmur. He stops, dead in his tracks. He can hear sobbing.

Father Bolton approaches the front of the church. He mounts the steps and peers into the dark alcove. “Come out child,” he whispers.

Henrietta Smart appears in front of him. He notices that she has been crying, and in the moonlight can see that she is holding the back of her head.

“Henry, are you okay?” Father Bolton rushes to her aid.

“My head hurts,” Henry sobs. “I don’t remember what happened.”

“Come on inside and I’ll get you cleaned up,” Father Bolton says, guiding her into his house.

Present Day

Kelly Driver sits on the chair next to the bed. The local ranger holds rosary beads in her hand, silently reciting some prayers.

In the hospital bed lies somebody who she thought she had lost. Father Bolton is being kept alive by the whirring machines surrounding him and invading his body.

“Please wake up,” Kelly says.

The door to the room suddenly opens and Kelly looks on in awe as a woman enters the room. Geraldine Jenkins smiles timidly at Kelly and sits down on the edge of the bed next to Father Bolton.

Kelly doesn’t know what to say. The woman in front of her is leading a double life. She knew her once as Henrietta Smart.

“Has there been any news?” Geraldine finally says, breaking the silence. “Is he going to be okay?”

“I don’t know,” Kelly mumbles.

“He’s a good man,” Geraldine says. “He’s helped a lot of people.”


“He helped me too.” Geraldine looks to Kelly, but Kelly is looking at the floor. “I’m sorry, Kelly. I never meant to hurt anyone.”

June, 1983

Father Bolton hands Henry a mug of hot chocolate and she holds it between her cold hands, attempting to warm them.

“We went to try and find you, Henry,” Father Bolton tells her. “Constance told me what happened.”

Henry rubs the back of her head. “I don’t remember what happened.”

“Why were you trying to run away, Henry?” Father Bolton asks.

“My parents wouldn’t understand,” Henry whispers.

“About your relationship with Kelly?” Father Bolton queries.

“How did you know?” Henry is surprised.

“Constance told me. She told me about you and Kelly. She’s been watching you.” Father Bolton wraps a blanket over the young girl’s shoulders.

“Constance is going to ruin everything!”

“Ruin everything? Constance thinks that she killed you.”

“Good! Let her believe that!” Henry takes a sip of her drink. “I’m going to be leaving this town anyway!”

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“What about Kelly?”

Henry sets the mug down on the table and stares silently in front of her. A tear falls down her face. “Poor Kelly, I didn’t want to hurt her.”

“Hurt her?”

“I love Kelly, but only as a friend,” Henry confesses. She buries her head in her hands. “I’m not gay – that’s not the reason I’m leaving town!”

Present Day

“You have some explaining to do.” Kelly is hurt. “You just left.”

“I’m sorry,” Geraldine says, standing up from the bed and approaching Kelly, “I didn’t have a choice.”

“No choice?”

“I needed to protect Catherine.”

“Catherine?” Kelly is confused. “You had another lover?”

“Catherine is not my lover.” Geraldine grabs Kelly’s hand. “Catherine is my daughter.”

June, 1983

“I don’t understand. What is the reason you’re leaving, Henry?” Father Bolton asks.

Henry looks to her belly and rubs it. “I’m pregnant.”

Father Bolton steps back, almost in horror. “But – but, how?”

“I don’t need to explain how people get pregnant to you, do I Father?” Henry says, annoyed.

“I mean,” Father Bolton stutters. “Who is the father?”

“I was silly,” Henry says. “Just some boy from school. We fooled around.”

“Henry.” Father Bolton is disappointed.

“My parents can’t find out – they would take the baby away. That’s why I’m leaving town.”

“Please stay – I can help you,” Father Bolton urges.

“I need to leave.”

Present Day

“So you never loved me,” Kelly says, hurt. “You were using me because you were pregnant with your daughter, Cathy.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t understand,” Kelly says. “Why did you want me to leave with you?”

Geraldine closes her eyes and sighs heavily. “The truth is, Driver, you were never coming with me.”

Kelly is confused.

“I’m an awful person,” Geraldine continues. “When I sent you away that night, I was going to leave – without you.”

A tear falls from Kelly’s eye.

“I was never a good friend – nor your lover,” Geraldine confesses. “I was setting it up to look like we were lovers so that when I did run away, people would think I did so because I was ashamed of my sexuality. I was sure my parents would never come looking for me if they thought I was gay. But if they knew that I had a child…”

Kelly buries her face in her hands.

“I was right,” Geraldine adds. “I disappeared. Everyone found out that I was having a ‘relationship’ with you and no-one came looking for me. Not even my parents.”

Kelly wipes her tears away from her face and stands up next to Geraldine Jenkins. “But I loved you,” Kelly sniffs. “And I never stopped thinking about you.”

Without saying another word, Kelly Driver walks past Henrietta Smart and exits the hospital room.

“I’m going crazy!” Constance Helling paces back and forth along the hallway in her house. “I’ve seen a ghost.”

Constance picks up a brown paper bag and breathes heavily into it.

“I saw Henrietta Smart die right in front of me,” she says to herself. “How is she still alive?”

Constance walks to the large window overlooking the town of Peppercorn Patch below her. She pulls the curtains closed, afraid of the darkness on the other side of the glass. “I’ve seen a ghost,” she pants.

Suddenly, there is a loud banging noise. Constance is startled and drops the paper bag.

Another loud bang informs her that there is someone at the front door.

Constance trembles. The knocking becomes more insistent.

She walks slowly to the front door, picking up the heavy poker from next to the fireplace.

Constance raises the poker in the air and slowly turns the door handle. The front door creaks open.

In front of her, Constance Helling sees a real ghost.

She screams. She pants. She waves the poker in attack.

Suddenly, the ghost steps forward, grabbing her. Constance is suddenly comforted.

“Hello, mother,” Thomas Helling says. “It’s time for payback.”

Next Episode – Monday October 17

Episode Fifty-Eight

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Father Bolton

The darkness emphasises the silence. The silence emphasises the darkness.

A cloud of black dust fills the air. The building lays strewn in pieces.

A hand emerges from the rubble. A hand with no little finger.

Cathy Gilmore pulls herself up through the wreckage. She can’t see anything. Darkness is the new light.

“They will be trapped,” Valerie Pickering puffed. “Everyone will be trapped and they won’t all survive.”

“Who won’t survive?” Doctor Joel Prasad asked.

Valerie suddenly grabbed hold of Joel’s arm. “You need to save them!” she cried. “But you need to be quick! They need your help!”

Joel Prasad opens his eyes slowly. His head is groggy. At first he doesn’t know where he is.

He lifts himself up from underneath the table. He looks around at the destruction in front of him. “Is anyone there?” he calls out, but there is no response. Joel makes his way through what was once the dining area of The Grand Hotel. It is unrecognisable.

As he nears the bar area, he has to pull himself up over a wooden ceiling beam. He sees an arm outstretched from underneath the beam. Hurriedly, he tries to push the heavy beam, but it does not move. He grabs the arm and reaches in to feel for a pulse. Nothing.

Joel pushes as much debris as he can away to reveal the owner of the arm. Lifeless eyes stare back up at him. Joel knows he is too late.

The pain continues to shoot up Melody Walker’s arm. She holds her wrist tenderly in her other hand. As she sits in the gutter not far from the destruction she had herself instigated, she sheds tears. “My Joel,” she sobs. “You were supposed to join me.”

She sniffs a couple of times, shakes her head and recollects her thoughts. A sudden smile erupts over her face. She thinks of the pain she has inflicted on all those inside the building. She thinks of the pain she has inflicted onto Cathy Gilmore, the silly bitch who couldn’t just let her husband go. She thinks of the pain she has inflicted on Mark Gilmore. He was a man who hadn’t kept his word with her.

She sniffs again. She continues to smile as she thinks of the pain she has inflicted on Joel Prasad. “If you loved me,” she snarls to herself, “you would have joined me when I told you to, you bastard!”

She pulls herself up from the ground, her broken wrist in a firm grip, and starts to walk away from the crime scene. “You can all go rot in hell!” she screams back at the building.

Mark Gilmore had been crushed to death by the falling beam. Joel Prasad did not know him well, but was still saddened by the sight of the deceased man in front of him. He knew there wasn’t anything he could do for the man. He felt hopeless.

An enormous roar suddenly erupts and Joel quickly pushes himself under the beam. Above him, the ceiling collapses. He shields himself from any harm.

Amongst the roar, he can hear screams coming from the rear of the building. Through the dust and debris surrounding him, Joel looks to the back of the building. He can make out a hand reaching up out from the ruins.

Joel pulls himself to his feet. The voice in his head sets his rescue mission in motion.

“You need to save them!” he can hear Valerie crying. “But you need to be quick! They need your help!”

Kelly Driver lies amongst the rubble. She tries to open her eyes. She tries to move. But she finds herself succumbing to unconsciousness.

“Hi Driver.” Kelly suddenly sees a 16-year-old Henrietta Smart standing in front of her.

“Henry,” Kelly replies, realising that she is sitting in the large peppercorn tree that she had done when she herself was 16 years old.

“What are you doing up there?” Henry asks.

Kelly quickly covers the etching with her school bag. “Nothing,” she replies. “I’m just relaxing.”

Kelly knows that if Henry sees her etching, KD 4 HS surrounded by a love heart, then it would probably destroy her friendship. She didn’t yet know if Henry liked her the same way that she liked Henry.

“Can I come join you up there?” Henry asks, pulling herself up the tree.

“Um, sure…” Kelly says nervously, moving her school bag quickly and sitting so that her back was now up against the etching. She hoped that her body would cover it and Henry wouldn’t catch on to her infatuation.

“I know we’ve only known each other for a little while, but I feel a great connection with you,” Henry says to Kelly. “You’re my best friend, Driver.”

Kelly’s heart races. She can feel her neck pulsating. She fears that Henry might be able to hear the blood pumping rapidly through her veins.

“Am I your best friend, Driver?” Henry asks.

“Of course,” Kelly says, almost too quickly. She feels so nervous.

“Would you do anything for me?” Henry asks.

“What do you mean?” Kelly asks quizzically.

“Best friends help each other out,” Henry says, smiling at Kelly. “And we’re best friends.”

“What do you need?” Kelly is more nervous than ever.

“Oh, nothing now,” Henry laughs. “But just in case I do, I just wanted to make sure that you would help out.”

“Anytime.” Kelly smiles back at Henry.

“Over here,” Sergeant Michael Anders assists Doctor Joel Prasad to free another survivor from the wreckage.

Constance Helling, covered head to toe in dust, reaches her hand up and is pulled by the two men to safety. They guide her cautiously to where they had placed the other survivors.

Joanne Evans and Cathy Gilmore sit huddled together with Cathy’s mother, Geraldine Jenkins. Beside them sits a shaken Kelly Driver.

“I think I’ve found Father Bolton,” Kyle Cook suddenly screams from the wreckage. Sergeant Anders and Doctor Prasad make their way over to the trapped priest.

By the time the three men pull the injured man from the wreckage, he looks as if he is almost at death’s door. They lay him on the ground next to the group and Kelly begins praying instantly. “Father, please don’t leave me,” she whispers, tears falling.

There is movement and Father Bolton coughs. He looks up gingerly and sees Kelly crying above him. She hugs him in glee and continues crying. This time the tears are for joy.

“My dear Kelly,” Father Bolton croaks, “the Lord is calling me.”

“Father, you’ll be okay,” Kelly says.

“The Lord is showing me the way, Kelly,” Father Bolton adds, coughing coarsely.

Kelly Driver pulls the priest in close and squeezes him. “Thank you for being my dad,” she whispers to him.

“Kelly, she’s here,” Father Bolton says.

“Who’s here?” Kelly is confused.


“Where?” Kelly is suddenly feeling nervous. Her heart is beating faster.

Father Bolton coughs harshly again and closes his eyes. He is suddenly silent and still and Kelly lets out a wail. She is comforted by Cathy and Joanne.

“He’s pointing at something,” Cathy suddenly says.

Kelly looks down at Father Bolton’s arm and notices that his hand is pointed away from his body. His index finger is poised as if he was trying to tell her something.

The realisation finally hits Kelly. “He’s not pointing at something,” she says. “He’s pointing at someone.”

Kelly Driver follows Father Bolton’s pointed finger.

“He’s pointing at Henrietta Smart,” she adds.

Kelly Driver follows Father Bolton’s pointed finger. The answer is in front of her.

Geraldine Jenkins looks nervously back at her.

Next Episode – Thursday October 13

Episode Fifty-Seven

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


“It’s so smoky in here,” Valerie Pickering said, holding a hand to her throat. “It’s so hard to breathe.”

“There’s no smoke in here, Aunty Val.” Joanne Evans stood over her aunty’s hospital bed, confused.

“There will be smoke soon,” Valerie coughed. “Not everyone will survive.”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.

Melody Walker pulls herself up from the bitumen. Her hands and knees are badly grazed from where she was forced to the ground. She reaches for her forearm as it sends a shooting pain up her entire arm. She had fallen hard on it and wouldn’t be surprised if it had been fractured.

Melody looks to the building behind her. Large flames still billow from the blown-out windows. Black smoke surges intensely. She can hear the sound of cracking and exploding glass. The sound of the vast array of alcohol continues to erupt inside the building.


Melody wants to smile. She wants to be happy with what she had achieved. She had sought revenge on those people inside the building, particularly Mark Gilmore and his bitch of a wife, Cathy Gilmore. They had paid the ultimate price for destroying her. Melody couldn’t smile though, as the one person that she had fallen in love with was still in the building. He was supposed to have exited the building before the time was up, however she hadn’t seen him before the building ignited.

“Joel.” Melody begins to tear up. “What have I done to my dear Joel?”

“What are you talking about, Aunty Val?” Joanne asked. “Who won’t survive?”

“The explosion,” Valerie Pickering continued to cough. “Not everyone can survive the explosion.”

“What explosion?” Joanne asked, becoming impatient. “You’re scaring me, Aunty Val. Please tell me what’s going on.”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.

It’s heavy. But she manages to push it off of her. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed onto Joanne Evans but she had been somehow protected when she heard the explosion come from the rear of The Grand Hotel and ducked under the nearest table.

Through the heavy black smoke, Joanne can make out the silhouette of somebody lying next to her. She pushes at the body, trying to stir them but they remain still and silent.

She looks around her, but finds it too hard to see through the smoke. She can hear the crackle of fire around her and the sound of glass still exploding from the nearby bar. There are others around her, for she can also hear constant coughing and moaning. The sounds are quickly drowned out by the fire alarm which pierces suddenly, followed by the sprinkler system drenching her with a downpour of water.

“Joanne?” she can hear a voice. “Are you okay?” Joanne looks above her to see her best friend, Cathy Gilmore.

“I think so,” Joanne manages to say. “Help me over here.” Joanne motions to the still body next to her.

Cathy leans down next to Joanne and they work together to turn over their patient.

“It’s not going to end well,” Valerie continued to cough, before closing her eyes and sinking back into the hospital bed.

“Aunty Val! Stop it!” Joanne screamed.

Valerie opened her eyes and noticed Joanne standing above her, baby Ricky clutched to her chest.

“Jo, baby?” Valerie smiled. “What are you doing here?”

“What do you mean?” Joanne was unnerved. “You were just talking to me.”

“Was I?” Valerie asked, a little confused. “I don’t remember. It must be these drugs I’m on.”

Joanne steps back towards the door. “I must get going. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Off so soon?”

Joanne Evans opened the door of the hospital room and exited. As she did so, she spotted Doctor Joel Prasad talking with Sergeant Michael Anders.

“Doctor Prasad,” Joanne called out to the doctor as she pushed the stroller over to the men.

“Hi Joanne,” Joel said. “How’s your aunty?”

“I think she needs some help,” Joanne explained. “She seems to be hallucinating.”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.

Joanne and Cathy roll Father Bolton over onto his back. They reel back in horror at the sight of the huge gash across his forehead.

“Is he breathing?” Joanne asks.

The nurse in Cathy kicks in and she begins her emergency response procedures. “He’s got a faint pulse and he’s still breathing,” she says to Joanne. “We need to try and get him out of here.”

From above them, the water from the sprinkler system continues to pour. The smoke slowly dissipates as the fire is extinguished. Joanne looks around her at the carnage. She sees some familiar faces pulling themselves up from the floor. She looks towards the front door and notices that is blocked by part of a collapsed ceiling and other debris.

Suddenly, a booming voice cuts through the hiss of the sprinklers. “Come on, everybody! This way!” Sergeant Michael Anders is directing the townspeople towards the back of The Grand Hotel, through a door that Joanne knows leads to Aunty Val’s office.

Joanne and Cathy hook their arms under Father Bolton’s and begin to drag him to the office door. They are soon helped by others and they make their way into the office.

Doctor Joel Prasad entered Valerie Pickering’s hospital room.

“Hello, doctor,” Valerie greeted Joel.

“Valerie,” he said, moving up next to the bed. “Joanne seems to be concerned about you.”

“Concerned?” Valerie asked. “She ran out of here like I’m some monster!”

“You’ve been hallucinating. Sometimes the pain medication can cause some strange side effects.”

Without warning, Valerie suddenly pushed her whole body back down onto the bed and she started shaking, convulsing all over.

“Valerie?” Joel said, concerned. “Stay with me.”

Joanne lays Father Bolton down on the office floor while Sergeant Anders attempts to open the rear door. “This door leads to the back alley,” he tells the group. “It seems to be jammed, though. I’ll need to break it down.”

“I’ll give you a hand,” Senior Constable Kyle Cook says. They both pick up a table and start ramming it into the door.

Joanne looks around her at the familiar faces in the small room.

Father Bolton remains motionless, almost lifeless, on the floor.

Cathy Gilmore kneels over him providing him the best care that she can.

Kelly Driver, the local ranger, also kneels over Father Bolton. Joanne sees tears falling down her cheeks as she motions the sign of the cross.

Geraldine Jenkins, Cathy’s mother, sits on a chair holding a wound to her leg. She is being treated by another nurse, Constance Helling.

The sound of the explosion erupts through Joanne’s mind every time she hears Sergeant Anders and her lover, Kyle Cook, bashing into the jammed exit door.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Another booming sound echoes through the small office and Joanne realises the sound has not been made from the two men. Loud cracking sounds erupt above her. The building begins to shake and she notices the horror on everyone’s faces.

The weakened building starts to fall apart and the second level collapses onto the office under immense pressure.


“Valerie?” Joel asked.

Suddenly she opened her eyes and gasped loudly.

“Are you okay?” Joel asked again.

“They will be trapped,” Valerie puffed. “Everyone will be trapped and they won’t all survive.”

Next Episode – Monday October 10

Episode Fifty-Six

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


Tick. Tick. Tick.

Joanne Evans slices open the envelope which had been addressed to her. She pulls out the piece of paper and instantly recognises the header on top of the letter. Holgate Bedlamites is embossed in a burgundy red, followed underneath by the mental hospital’s address.

Joanne knows the address well. She had spent four months at the hospital, having been treated for her mental illnesses suffered after the traumatic events that had unfolded in the preceding year, culminating in the death of her daughter; a twin she named after her biological mother, Sylvia.

Joanne holds the paper tensely between her fingers; the paper’s thick and creamy texture firmly in her grasp.

The penmanship, Joanne can see, is lacking in finesse and legibility. A doctor’s hand.

The realisation makes Joanne angry, not afraid. Doctor Peter Smith, her deranged biological father was locked away in the hospital and could no longer hurt her.

My daughter, Joanne, the letter reads,
I have only one wish.
I should have been a man
But instead, I was selfish.
I can’t take away your pain,
Or your desire to see me perish.
My wish is for you to gain
Something to love and cherish.

“Bastard,” Joanne whispers, reading the poem a second time. “Poetry Predator strikes again.”

Joanne takes the letter, scrunches it into a ball and pitches it across the room.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Almost time. Be patient. It’s almost time.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Geraldine Jenkins assists her daughter into a dress. She pulls the zip up carefully, stepping back to take in the view of Cathy Gilmore.

“You look stunning,” Geraldine says to her daughter. “You’re going to kill them tonight!”

Cathy smiles, something she did rarely these days. Ever since her hands had been mutilated at the hands of The Poetry Predator, she hadn’t been the same person. Ever since she found out that her husband, Mark Gilmore, had been cheating on her with his mistress, Melody Walker, she hadn’t been the same person. Ever since her life had been threatened, not once, but twice since she had returned to work as a nurse at the local hospital, she hadn’t been the same person.

“I feel beautiful,” Cathy says to her mother.

“You are beautiful.” Geraldine takes Cathy’s hands in her own. “You are the most beautiful person I know.”

“Beautiful enough to win?” Cathy laughs.

“You’ve already won,” Geraldine says, “but you’ll win the beauty pageant for sure.”

Cathy looks to her hands. The missing pinkies suddenly remind her of the torment. She isn’t sure that she could ever consider herself beautiful again.

Scrunched up paper, I see you here,
Scrunched up paper, I see you there,
Scrunched up paper, flying through the air,
Scrunched up paper, I see you everywhere.

Melody Walker puts the finishing touches of makeup onto her face. She looks up into the mirror and sees a hand being placed on her shoulder. “You’ll kill it tonight,” Joel Prasad says.

“Thanks, babycakes,” Melody says. She turns and gets to her feet to face Joel. “You’re a judge, so I expect that I will win!”

Joel laughs and looks shyly to the floor. “Anything for my Melody.”

The two embrace, kiss and then laugh about the smeared lipstick now on Joel’s lips.

“You are beautiful,” Joel says, eyeing his lover up and down.

“We’re beautiful together,” Melody remarks. Joel looks to the floor again, bashful.

“I best get ready to judge.” Joel suddenly turns to exit the room. “The pageant will be starting soon, so I best be on my way.”

As Joel moves away, Melody grabs his hand. “Remember, babycakes, to meet me outside just before the verdict is announced.”

“Oh, and why is that again?” Joel asks curiously.

Melody lifts her dress slightly and guides Joel’s hand up her leg. She smiles seductively at him before gently biting his earlobe.

“Understood.” Joel Prasad goes red in the face before rushing out of the room.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Where is he? He better be here. Doesn’t he know what danger he’s in?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Joanne Evans steps out onto the makeshift stage. The bright lights and loud cheer from the audience make her slightly dizzy for a second. She manages to regain her composure and makes a few poses in her evening dress.

Inside The Grand Hotel, the audience cheers on raucously for their favourite beauty queen. Joanne had stolen the small town of Peppercorn Patch’s hearts. She had suffered enough, they had decided. It was time for Joanne to have some victory.

Joanne looks down upon the audience. She sees familiar faces. Townsfolk who had gathered in her Aunty’s establishment to wish her only the best. Among them are the local ranger, Kelly Driver and the local priest, Father Bolton; the town matriarch, Constance Helling; and Cathy Gilmore’s husband, Mark Gilmore, and mother, Geraldine Jenkins.

Seargeant Michael Anders and Doctor Joel Prasad sit at the judge’s table, along with her partner, Leading Senior Constable Kyle Cook. She only wished that her aunty, Valerie Pickering, could be there to see here too. She was still in hospital.

As Joanne steps up to the microphone to answer some of the judge’s questions, she has a thought. She wants to scream out for peace. Not for world peace, but her own. I want peace! she wants to scream out loud. At that moment she sees a scrunched up piece of paper flying through the air. It unravels as it moves through the air, almost floating in midair and letting out the demons of her past. Joanne Evans realises then that peace for herself can never be attained, just as wishing for world peace is a pointless sentiment.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

There’s no time left! Where in the hell is he?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The final beauty pageant contestant graces the stage and the judges are left to their deliberations. Among those that the judges are to consider for the title of beauty queen are Cathy Gilmore, Melody Walker, and the crowd favourite, Joanne Evans.

Melody Walker pushes open the front door and exits The Grand Hotel, leaving those inside to continue to drink merrily from the assortment of alcoholic beverages from the bar. She walks along the footpath and glances down at her watch impulsively.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“Almost time,” she whispers to herself. “Be patient. It’s almost time.”

She glances at her watch again impatiently. She can see the time getting close. She knows that she shouldn’t be here. She looks back to the entrance and waits for Joel Prasad to exit.

“Where is he? He better be here. Doesn’t he know what danger he’s in?”

She lights a cigarette and inhales it, the smoky exhale filling the still night sky.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

“There’s no time left!” She puffs faster and faster, watching the minute hand on her watch getting closer. “Where in the hell is he?”

Melody sucks in her cigarette and tosses the butt to the gutter. As she turns to walk further away from The Grand Hotel, she hurriedly looks at her watch again.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Without warning, the building behind her erupts in a booming sound. Melody Walker is thrown to the ground. The force from the explosion behind her catapults her body harshly into the bitumen.

A giant fireball lights the night sky and The Grand Hotel seems to explode into a thousand pieces. The sound of shattering glass pierces every corner of the small town.

Scrunched up paper inside my head.
Scrunched up paper with a message I dread.
Scrunched up paper and a sea of red.
Scrunched up paper, surrounded by dead.

Next Episode – Thursday October 6

Welcome back to Peppercorn Patch for the remainder of Season Five!

Prepare for Vengeance. Retribution is here.

Episode Fifty-Five

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


Sergeant Michael Anders peers through the glass panel of the hospital door. Inside the hospital room he can see Amber Harp sitting on the bed. Sitting on the bed next to her, he can see Amber’s ten-year-old son, Drake. In the chair next to the bed, Amber’s husband, Steven Harp, sits. Smiles all round. They look like a happy, loving family, Michael thinks to himself.

“How’s she doing, Doc?” Michael asks the new local doctor, Joel Prasad.

“She’s still been having the seizures,” Joel tells him. “The medication she’s on seems to be helping and her memory seems to be slowly returning.”

“Positive news, then,” Michael says, continuing to gaze into the room. He watches on as Amber laughs and gives Drake a big hug.

“You miss her, don’t you?” Joel asks.

Michael closes his eyes and drops his head. “It’s silly,” he says.

“Not silly at all,” Joel says. “You loved her a lot.”

“I should be happy for her,” Michael says. “I should be happy for all of them, but I feel so lost without her.”

“It must have been a big surprise.” Joel puts his hand on Michael’s shoulder.

“I wish she had of told me,” Michael sighs. “I’ve never felt this heartbroken.”

“You need something to take your mind off things,” Joel suggests to his new friend. “Why don’t you join me as a judge at tomorrow night’s beauty pageant?”

Michael laughs out loud.

“I’m serious,” Joel adds. “It’ll be fun!”

“Aunty Val,” Joanne Evans whispers as she enters her aunty’s hospital room. “It’s me; Joanne.”

Valerie Pickering stirs from her sleep. She stirs from her heavily medicated sleep. Valerie had been in hospital ever since she had had her life-saving operation to replace her failing kidneys. Michael Anders had been kind enough to spare one of his own to save Valerie. The surgery came at a cost, though. Valerie had been through complication after complication post-surgery. She seemed to be on the mend now, however pain medication was still her best friend.

“My baby Jo,” Valerie slurs groggily, “so nice to see you.”

Joanne assists Valerie to a seated position, takes baby Ricky out of the stroller and places him in her aunty’s lap.

“He’s getting so big,” Valerie says, a tear coming to her eye. “I’m missing him grow up.”

“You’ll be a big part of his life always,” Joanne says, wiping her son’s face. “You’ll love Aunty Val as much as I do, won’t you Ricky?”

Without warning, Valerie’s face tightens and she pushes the baby on her lap towards Joanne. “Please don’t trust me with him!”

“What do you mean, Aunty Val?” Joanne asks, picking Ricky up and holding him in her arms.

“I can’t be trusted,” Valerie cries, almost sounding as if she is in pain. “Only bad things will come if you entrust your baby with me.”

Joanne holds her baby even closer to her body. She laughs nervously. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to tell me, Aunty Val.”

In front of her, Joanne looks on as her aunty throws her body back onto the bed from her seated position. Joanne watches as she sees Valerie’s eyelids twitch and her eyeballs underneath roll back and forth.

“Aunty Val?” Joanne turns to get help but is stopped. She looks down to see Aunty Val’s hand grabbing hold of her arm.

“I can see it, Joanne.” Valerie’s eyes continue to roll. “There will only be tragedy if you leave your baby with me.”

Joanne, unnerved, sets Ricky down in the stroller and reaches out to comfort her aunty. Valerie begins to cough, lightly at first, then becoming uncontrollable.

“I’m going to get you some help!” Joanne says over the loud noise of the coughing. She can see her aunty struggling for breath between each cough.

“It’s so smoky in here,” Valerie says, holding a hand to her throat. “It’s so hard to breathe.”

“There’s no smoke in here, Aunty Val.”

“There will be smoke soon,” Valerie coughs. “Not everyone will survive.”

Joanne is feeling very unsettled after her encounter with her aunty. When she walks out of the hospital room, she spots Doctor Joel Prasad talking with Sergeant Michael Anders.

“Doctor Prasad,” Joanne calls out to the doctor as she pushes the stroller over to the men.

“Hi Joanne,” Joel says. “How’s your aunty?”

“I think she needs some help,” Joanne explains. “She seems to be hallucinating.”

Joel nods reassuringly to Joanne. “A common side effect of the pain medication. A lot of patients think they are seeing things that aren’t actually there.”

“She’s scaring me,” Joanne sniffs. “She’s talking about smoke and people not surviving, and not being trusted with Ricky…”

Joel puts his hand on Joanne’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Joanne,” he says to her. “I could only imagine how you would be feeling. Watching your loved one like that must be hard. Let me go in and check on her. I’ll go and make sure she’s comfortable.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Joanne says as she watches the doctor head into her aunty’s room.

“You need something to keep your mind off things,” Sergeant Anders suddenly says.

“Like what?” Joanne asks, curious.

“Like a beauty pageant.”

Joanne laughs out loud.

“I’m serious,” Sergeant Anders says. “I’m judging, so you’ve got a good chance of winning.”

Michael Anders gives Joanne a big toothy smile. She looks at him sheepishly before returning the smile. “I’m going to have to buy a new dress,” she laughs.

Sergeant Michael Anders watches on helplessly as his lover is escorted down the corridor towards the hospital’s entrance. Amber Harp’s luggage is carried by her husband, Steven Harp. Her young son, Drake, walks next to her, hand in hand.

As she walks past him, Amber’s eyes meet Michael’s for a split second. Michael’s heart beats faster. He wants to grab her. He wants to embrace her. He wants to tell her how much he loves her. But instead he just watches as she exits the hospital, flanked by her family.

Michael follows the Harp family outside, keeping his distance. He watches as Steven Harp loads the car boot with Amber’s bags. Her son races around to the other side of the car and jumps in the back seat. Steven enters into the driver’s seat and starts the engine.

“Time to return home to Holgate,” Michael can hear Steven Harp say to his wife.

Amber puts her hand on the door handle. Before she opens the door, she turns and her eyes meet Michael’s for the second time. She turns back towards the car and opens the door.

“Amber!” Michael suddenly calls out to her.

Amber turns. Michael runs towards her. He puts his arms out and they embrace.

“I’ll always love you,” Michael says, tears welling in his eyes.

Amber looks at him 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 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.

Obnoxious Weeds will return soon for the remainder of Season Five!

Make sure you subscribe to this blog to receive all future Episodes via email and never miss any of the action!

Episode Fifty-Four

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


June, 1983

Number Six sniffs a couple of times, wipes her face and looks the priest in his eyes.

“What are you talking about, dear?” Father Bolton puts an arm out to try and comfort her.

“I didn’t mean to kill Henry Smart,” Constance Helling weeps.

Father Bolton takes a step back and brings his hand to his mouth in shock. “Constance?” he says, bewildered.

“I killed her, Father,” Constance continues to cry. “I didn’t mean to do it. We were fighting one moment, and the next thing I knew she was on the ground. She hit her head on a rock.”

“Constance,” Father Bolton says, ushering Number Six into his house, “you need to start from the beginning.”

Present Day

Anna-Maree Axe walks down the main street of Peppercorn Patch. Even though it was the middle of winter and cold, the sun was out and it had turned out to be a pleasant day. Anna-Maree’s newly coloured hair was hidden under a beanie. A scarf swamped her neck and sunglasses kept one third of her face hidden.

She passed people in the street. Peppercorn Patch townsfolk who had no idea who she really was. She was now Anna-Maree Axe. And that was how she wanted it to stay.

Anna-Maree had a problem. In fact, Anna-Maree had more than one problem. But she seemed to have dealt with all of the problems that she was faced with. Most of the time she just ran away from her problems.

She now had a loving husband. She wasn’t about to run away from him. But she did need to fix one of her problems first. And that was the reason why she was in Peppercorn Patch.

“Can I help you?” the bank manager asks Anna-Maree as she enters the small bank.

Anna-Maree goes to take her sunglasses off, but stops herself, realising that she needs to keep her identity as hidden as possible. She doesn’t recognise the bank manager standing in front of her, but knows the bank’s cameras would probably be filming her.

“I have a security deposit box,” Anna-Maree says. “I’d like to view it.”

“Of course,” the bank manager says, leading Anna-Maree over to a desk in the back corner of the bank. “I’ll need to see some identification.”

Anna-Maree is suddenly nervous. A wave of fear floods her thoughts. She hands over the false identification to the bank manager.

“Thank you,” the bank manager says, taking the card. “You’ll need to remove your sunglasses.”

Anna-Maree hesitantly slides the sunglasses down her nose and then completely off her face. She pushes them onto the top of her head.

“Thank you, Ms Strong,” the bank manager says, handing back Anna-Maree’s ID and taking a key out of the desk drawer. “Have you got your key with you?”

“Yes,” Anna-Maree rummages through her handbag and pulls out a golden key.

Anna-Maree follows the bank manager through a back door and into the safety deposit room. “Number?” the bank manager asks.

Anna-Maree looks at her key and sees the number engraved at the top of it. “Thirteen,” she tells the bank manager.

The bank manager leads her over to the table in the centre of the room. She takes a seat as her box is retrieved. After the box is placed on the table in front of her, the bank manager slides a key into one end of it. Anna-Maree takes her key and inserts it into the other side. There is a clicking sound as the front of the box separates from the rest of the box.

“I’ll leave you to it, then,” the bank manager says. “Use the phone to call me when you’re done.”

Once the bank manager exits the room, Anna-Maree pulls the box towards her and slides the lid off.

She pulls out some paperwork and quickly flicks through it. She drops the stack of paper on the table and pulls out more, flicking through it as well.

“Where is it?” Anna-Maree says out loud. She pushes the paperwork over the table, frantically searching.

She can feel her face redden as the paperwork on the table is pushed in every direction.

“Please, please!” She says, frantically. “Where in the hell is it?”

Frustrated, Anna-Maree lets out a howl that is only muffled by the thick, soundproof walls of the safety deposit room. As she gets to her feet, she pushes the table away from her, the paperwork and safety deposit box on it flying across the room.

Geraldine Jenkins unlocks the front door of her daughter’s unit and assists her daughter up the front steps.

“You know, you really don’t have to stay,” Mark Gilmore says, carrying his wife’s bags into the house.

“I’m staying for my daughter,” Geraldine snaps. “Someone needs to look after her.”

“I appreciate your offer to help,” Mark says to his mother-in-law, “but Cathy is my wife, and I’m sure I can look after her.”

“Like you’ve looked after Cathy all this time?” Geraldine snaps again. “Good protective husband you are!”

“I didn’t send her the cookies,” Mark protests. “I didn’t poison my wife.”

Geraldine turns to face Mark and wags a finger at him, berating him like a small child. “The police might believe you, but I have my doubts!”

“I don’t want to harm my wife!”

“But cheating on her with that mistress Melanie…”

“Melody,” Mark interrupts.

“…Melody! That was okay, was it?” Geraldine reprimands him. “That wasn’t hurting my daughter?”

“Be quiet! The both of you!” Cathy Gilmore suddenly shouts. She bends down to pat her Ragdoll cat. It purrs and pushes its body through her legs.

After a moment of silence, Geraldine turns to face Mark again. “I’m staying to look after my daughter. She needs me at the moment. I think you’re best off finding other accommodation for the time being.”

“But where would I go?” Mark asks.

“Why don’t you see if Melody has a spare room,” Geraldine quips. “Actually, it probably wouldn’t matter if she didn’t, would it?”

“Number Six came to me,” Father Bolton says to Kelly Driver. “She attacked Henry.”

“But we looked up to her!” Kelly holds back tears. Kelly tries to hold back her anger. “We looked up to Constance.”

“She tried to prevent Henry from leaving.”

“I was supposed to leave with her,” Kelly adds, reminiscing. “Henry wanted me to leave with her.”

“Constance said that she was trying to look after Henry,” Father Bolton explains.

“So she attacked her?” Kelly is incredulous.

“It was an accident,” Father Bolton says. “Constance didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“What happened after that?” Kelly asks, becoming increasingly impatient with the Father who she looked up to as her own ‘father’.

June, 1983

“It was over here,” a 22-year-old Constance Helling says to Father Bolton, leading him to the location where she had attacked Henrietta Smart.

They both step timidly through the dark forest, the glow of the flashlights leading the way.

Constance shines her light over near the rocks and sees Henry’s bicycle glimmer. “She’s over here,” Constance says.

Father Bolton steps over closer to the bicycle and uses his flashlight to search the forest floor. “Where is she?”

“I don’t understand,” Constance says, her flashlight darting quickly around. “She hit her head here.”

“She’s not here, Constance,” Father Bolton states. “Maybe you were mistaken, child.”

“I know what I saw!”

“Come on,” Father Bolton says. “Let’s head back. We can search for her in the morning. She might have returned home.”

Without saying another word, Constance Helling and Father Bolton begin their trek back out of the forest.

Present Day

 “I don’t understand,” Kelly says. “Where was Henry?”

“She wasn’t there,” Father Bolton tells her. “So she must have survived the fall.”

“But how do you know?” Kelly asks. “Constance could have hidden her body somewhere else.”

Father Bolton takes a deep breath and takes Kelly’s hands in his own. Their warmness is a comfort to Kelly. She wished he was her real father.

“My dear child,” Father Bolton says, closing his eyes. “Henrietta Smart survived.”

“You saw her?” Kelly asks.

“Yes, Kelly,” Father Bolton whispers. “In fact, I’ve seen her recently. She’s back in town.”

Kelly Driver lets out a gasp.

Father Bolton smiles. “And I think she’s changed her name.”

Next Episode – Thursday August 18

Episode Fifty-Three

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One

Number Six

June, 1983

At a few minutes past midnight, Kelly Driver quietly exits her parents’ caravan and makes her way over to the large peppercorn tree. She sees her friend, Henrietta Smart, standing next to the tree, lit only by the moonlight.

“You came,” Henry says, smiling. She points to the metal box on the back of the bicycle, ushering Kelly to put the clothes she is holding into it. Kelly notices that it has been marked with the initials KD 4 HS. “We’ll be good for a few days.”

“Where are we going?” Kelly asks.

“Ssssh!” Henry hushes. “Change of plans.”

Kelly looks to her friend. Henrietta looks nervous. More nervous than she was looking earlier in the day. “Change of plans?”

“We can’t go tonight,” Henry explains. “Long story. I’ll explain later, I promise.”

“You promised you would explain everything tonight, Henry!” Kelly is growing impatient.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry.” Henry pulls Kelly towards her and the two girls embrace. “You’re a good friend, Driver.”

“What aren’t you telling me, Henry?”

“Take this box,” Henry says, pulling the metal box off the back of the bicycle and handing it Kelly. “Take it and keep it safe. We’ll need it when we leave, so keep it safe until then.”

“You’re scaring me,” Kelly whispers.

“Driver, listen!” Henry is now the impatient one. “Take the box and hide it. I’ll let you know when we can leave and I’ll tell you everything then!”

The two girls say their goodbyes and Kelly instantly charges herself with finding a good hiding spot for the metal box containing their runaway clothing.

Present Day

Kelly Driver opens up the metal box again and pulls out its contents. The clothing and high school identification cards lay scattered on the table in front of her.

The last image of Henry Smart flashes in Kelly’s mind. She can see Henry giving her a hurried kiss on the cheek. She can’t shake the image of Henry brushing off her so eagerly. The final memory of Henry Smart.

June, 1983

Henrietta Smart kisses Kelly Driver on the cheek and watches as her friend disappears in the darkness; the metal box full of clothing clutched tightly under Kelly’s arm.

“I’ll tell you everything soon,” Henry whispers. She suddenly turns to face the large peppercorn tree.

“You did the right thing.” From behind the tree a dark figure emerges. Henry can make out the silhouette of her 22-year-old acquaintance.  “You did the right thing by sending her away, Henry.”

“Are you happy?” Henry huffs, pulling her bicycle up from the ground.

“I’m just looking out for your best interests, Henry,” the 22-year-old says. “If ‘The Family’ ever found out about your plans to leave, there would be serious consequences.”

“How would they find out?” Henry asks. “Would you tell them?”

The 22-year-old sighs, reaching her hands out to meet Henry’s. “Your parents are the founders of ‘The Family’. They are number one and two on the food chain. They’re bound to find out sooner or later.”

“Would you tell them?” Henry persists.

“Kelly’s parents are numbers three and four,” Henry’s acquaintance continues. “They’re bound to find out soon as well.”

“I guess you will be bound to tell them about Kelly and me?” Henry snaps, backing away from the figure in front of her.

“My mother is number five,” the 22-year-old says, “which makes me number six.”

“I don’t give a rat’s arse what number you are!” Kelly yells, pushing her bicycle in the direction of her parent’s caravan.

“You will do what I tell you!” Number Six threatens. “I am your elder, so you will do what is best for you. Unless, of course, you want me to tell your parents that you’re planning to run away.”

“You don’t scare me!” Henry snarls.

Present Day

Kelly walks up to the church altar, opens the metal box and dumps its contents over the religious table. “Her disappearance has governed my life,” Kelly barks at Father Bolton. “You need to tell me what happened to her!”

“Not here, Kelly,” Father Bolton says quietly, calmly taking the local ranger by the hand and escorting her into the confessional.

June, 1983

Number Six pushes the bicycle further and further into the bushland. She had taken it from the front of Reginald and Miranda Smart’s caravan. Even though it belonged to Henrietta Smart, Number Six knew that Henry was best off not having it. Number Six had seen Henry try to plan an escape, and by taking the bicycle away, she knew that it would make it harder for any escape to happen.

Number Six nears a rocky and secluded part of the National Park. The overgrowth of trees and shrubbery in this area of the forest make it the best possible location to hide the bicycle.

Number Six lays the bicycle down near some large rocks and begins to pull some large branches over the top of it. She also finds some leaves and twigs and sets about the bicycle’s camouflage.

“What are you doing?” Number Six jumps suddenly, startled by the sound of Henry’s voice.

“Henry, you scared me,” Number Six says.

“I followed you from my caravan. Why have you taken my bike?” Henry asks.

“I’m doing it for your own sake, Henry,” Number Six explains, stepping in front of the bicycle’s location. “You can’t leave.”

“Give me my bike back!” Henry yells, attempting to push Number Six out of the way.

“You have no idea what you’re doing!” Number Six yells back, pushing against Henry.

Number Six grabs Henry by the shoulders and shoves her aggressively to the ground. She looks on as Henry falls to the ground, the back of her head hitting a large rock. Henry’s mouth exhales a whimpering sound, her body suddenly lying limp and still on the forest floor. Henry’s eyes roll towards the back of her head.

Present Day

“I have a confession to make,”

“Yes, go on.”

“I should have told you earlier, but I didn’t think it was fair.” Father Bolton hold his hands in his lap and closes his eyes, the distant memory of 33 years earlier flashing through his head.

“Tell me, Father,” Kelly implores.

“Number Six came to me.”

“Number Six?” Kelly is suddenly unsure.

“Yes, Kelly,” Father Bolton says. “It was Number Six who came to me. She attacked Henry.”

“But we looked up to her!” Kelly holds back tears. Kelly tries to hold back her anger.

“She tried to prevent Henry from leaving.”

“I was supposed to leave with her,” Kelly adds, reminiscing.

June, 1983

“Father,” Number Six sobs, “please help me!”

Father Bolton peers out the front door of his house. He had awoken to Number Six’s harsh banging on the door. He was still in his bed clothes.

“What is it, dear?” the young priest asks.

Number Six wipes tears from her face. Father Bolton can see the 22-year-old shaking.

“I didn’t mean to do it, Father,” Number Six cries. “I need your help.”

“What help do you need, child?” Father Bolton pulls his nightgown around his waist tighter.

“I didn’t mean to kill her, Father.”

“What are you talking about, dear?” Father Bolton puts an arm out to try and comfort Number Six.

Constance Helling sniffs a couple of times, wipes her face again and looks the priest in his eyes. “I didn’t mean to kill Henry Smart.”

Next Episode – Monday August 15

Episode Fifty-Two

Avoid Spoilers! Read from Episode One


“You’ve been a very naughty boy, Kyle.” Inspector Wesley Manning reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pair of handcuffs. “There’s no way you were ever going to get away with what you’ve done.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kyle Cook says, backing away from his senior officer.

“You don’t have to make this difficult for yourself.” Inspector Manning takes a step towards Kyle.

As the dust flies through the air, the two men engage in battle. They bring each other to the ground, becoming increasingly closer to the cliff’s edge.

“I told you that you were never going to get away with it!” Inspector Manning screams.

Kyle feels overpowered and lifeless. He tries to move his body to fight back but he is paralysed.

“Naughty, naughty boy!” Inspector Manning says, lifting Kyle off of his feet and raising him into the air. Kyle can feel himself flying through the air and out over the edge of the cliff. He looks back and sees Inspector Manning standing on the edge of the cliff laughing hysterically.

The sky and trees fade into the distance and Kyle lands with a thud at the base of the cliff.

Darkness fills his vision.

Kyle Cook sits up in bed violently, letting out a scream. His body is wet with sweat. He feels his heart pounding rapidly in his chest and he takes in short, shallow breaths.

“Kyle?” Joanne stirs from her sleep. “Are you okay?”

“Just a bad dream,” Kyle reassures his lover.

“I know what that feels like,” Joanne says quietly, before closing her eyes and falling back asleep.

Kyle Cook takes a few moments to calm himself down.

Don’t lose it now, Kyle, he thinks to himself. He looks over to the cot in the corner of the room and sees his infant son sleeping peacefully. You’ve got everything you ever wanted. Don’t lose your head now!

Father Bolton looks around the small congregation from the front of the church. He sees Joanne Evans, dressed in a pale pink dress, seated at the front. Her blonde hair falls to just below her shoulders in effortless curls. Joanne, Father Bolton notices, looks more radiant than ever. It is so nice to see the young woman happy and healthy again.

On Joanne’s lap, a little Richard rests. He is dressed in a long white dress. No ordinary dress though – baby Richard is adorned in a christening gown.

“I now ask baby Richard’s parents, Joanne and Kyle, to bring Richard forward to have their son presented for baptism.” Father Bolton ushers the pair to make their way to the baptism altar.

“Today the Church receives baby Richard with joy,” Father Bolton begins his blessings as Joanne and Kyle step forward.

“His name is Ricky,” Kyle suddenly interrupts.

“Ricky?” Father Bolton asks, confused. He looks to Joanne for confirmation.

“Yes,” Joanne says quietly. She looks to the floor and does not meet the priest’s gaze. “We’ve decided to name him Ricky.”

“He doesn’t suit being a Richard, anyway,” Kyle sniggers.

“Today the Church receives baby Ricky with joy,” Father Bolton continues. “In baptism, baby Ricky will begin his journey in faith. Will you care for him, and help him take his place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?”

“I will,” Joanne and Richard echo together.

“Ricky, I baptise you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Father Bolton recites.

From the back of the small church, Kelly Driver looks on as she sees Father Bolton pour the holy water onto the infant’s forehead. The sight causes a shiver to make its way down Kelly’s spine.

“Family members,” Reginald Smart calls to his friends gathered around, “let’s pray for Kelly!”

“Let go of me!” Kelly screams out.

“Let’s heal this poor girl from her pain and confusion,” Miranda Smart says. “Let’s pray that she recovers from her sickness.”

Kelly suddenly feels the congregation in front of her throwing water at her.

“This holy water will wash away your sins!” Reginald exclaims. “You have corrupted our wholesome daughter and you will now be accountable for your actions!”

“Father,” Kelly grabs a hold of Father Bolton’s arm as he exits the front door of the church.

“Kelly,” Father Bolton says, a big smile erupting on his face, “it’s so good to see you finally out of hospital. How are you doing?”

Kelly presses her hand to her abdomen. The bullet piercing through her body suddenly flashes in her memory. “I’m doing much better, thank you Father,” she says.

“You had a lot of people praying for you, Kelly,” Father Bolton adds. “So I knew you were going to make a full recovery.”

“I never lost faith,” Kelly says.

Father Bolton turns to move down the front steps of the church.

“Father,” Kelly grabs his arm again. “When you visited me in hospital, you told me you knew what had happened to Henrietta Smart.”

Father Bolton’s smile fades suddenly and he looks at Kelly despondently. “Not now, Kelly.” He turns to move away again.

“Father, I need to know what happened!” Kelly’s voice rises.

“Kelly, my child,” Father Bolton sighs. “I pray that you continue in your recovery.”

With that, Father Bolton turns away and disappears into the baptism gathering.

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Kyle Cook whispers to himself as he makes his way along the bush track. Only the light of the moon guides him.

Don’t lose your head now, Kyle, he thinks to himself.

“Faith is the gift of God to his people,” Kyle reprises the baptism of his son, quoting the words spoken by Father Bolton. He continues his climb through the bush.

Kyle slaps himself on his face. Get with it!

“In baptism, God calls us into his marvelous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him,” he repeats.

Where is it? Kyle looks around at the rocky ground beneath him. He grabs the torch out of his pocket and shines it around him, frantically.

Above him he can see the rocky cliff face. Somewhere under his feet he knows is the shallow grave of Inspector Wesley Manning.

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he says as he notices the collection of rocks he had placed on the grave to mark its location.

As he nears the grave, he can feel his heart pounding in his chest. He wipes his sweaty palms on his shirt. “I embrace Christ’s love!”

At first, Kyle doesn’t know if he’s made a mistake or not. Sitting next to the pile of rocks is a mound of dirt.

The only sound in the dark forest is Kyle’s heavy panting.

Kyle looks down into the empty hole that once housed Inspector Manning’s dead body.

Kyle flashes his torch around anxiously, the light blazing in all directions. He holds his head and feels dizzy. Pull yourself together, Kyle. You buried the body here.

Kyle points the flashlight into the empty hole again.

“I turn away from evil!” he screams into the night.

Next Episode – Thursday August 11